Thursday, August 27, 2009

No One's Perfect

We all have flaws, but our characters especially should have some, because what fun is there in reading about someone's perfect life? *grin*

Since our MC's have a defining virtue, should they also have a defining weakness? What if their weakness is what causes some of the main conflict in the story? What if the weakness is in direct opposition to the MC's virtue? The characters must have something to struggle against, a temptation or a sin, as well as an outer conflict.

What's your MC's biggest weakness? How does it define him or her? Does it propell the story? Do your characters ever fight the same kind of vices you do?




After reading the Seekerville post on Moral Premise, I signed up for Natasha Kern's ACFW conference class, Vice and Virtue. Wondering what she'll talk about is turning the wheels in my head and give me some blog fodder.

61 comments:

Tabitha Bird said...

great questions Jess. I'm gonna have to think on them. Sounds like a great conference class too.

Jody Hedlund said...

I definitely give my characters weaknesses and have them grow through those throughout the story. Often their weaknesses are in oposition to each other to help raise the stakes.

anita said...

Great post, Jessie! Yep, my characters always have flaws. Most often, it's something internal that they overcome throughout the book as a part of their character arc.

I've also been noticing in my most recent stories that I'm inclined to give them outer/physical flaws as well, which often pose some hardship on their road to happiness.

For example, the historical romance that snagged me an agent has a deaf heroine and a hero with a crippled foot. And each of their flaws play a pivotal role in the storyline, at times posing conflict, but ultimately drawing them together.

In my newest story, my heroine has a horrible scar on her chest that she's very self-conscious of. And my hero, being scarred internally, can see past it in a way other men might not. I've another story which branches off of this one where the hero is recovering from a stroke.

I don't know why those sorts of stories appeal to me, I guess because it gives them so much more to overcome, and ultimately accept about themselves, on their way to finding love. :-)

Proverbs 27:19 said...

My MC, (me), is selfish. "She" struggles with wanting it her way, when she wants it, and not wanting anything to alter her getting it!

smooches,
Larie

Jessica said...

Hey Tabitha,

Doesn't it? I'm so, so, so excited!

Jessica said...

Jody,
That sounds like a really good technique to raise the stakes. I like it!

Jessica said...

Anita,
Your characters have great flaws that usually add to their internal ones. Very unique.

Jessica said...

LOL Larie!
A selfish character is fun to write I think, but not so much fun in "real" life. LOL

Janna Qualman said...

Mine has spent a lifetime being untrue to herself, in a sense. She learns to be different in this regard, and passes the message on to her children through the story.

Irritable Mother said...

Hmmmm. I'm trying to decide, is my MC Me, since I write about my experiences? Or is my MC God because He is at the center of my life???
If it's me, we really don't have time to go into all my weaknesses. And if it's God, well, He doesn't have any weaknesses!
So I guess the thing that propels my story is the fact that a perfect God would desire to have anything to do with imperfect me. And that He would work throught my weaknesses to make me into the woman He wants me to be.
Mmmm! He is so good!

Kristen Torres-Toro @ Write in the Way said...

Hi, Jessica! It's nice to meet you! This was a great post!

I think one of my mc's biggest flaws is fear of abandonment. She so desperately doesn't want to be alone that she does some things that are more harmful than helpful.

Stephanie Faris said...

Definitely something to be aware of as we're creating characters. Just as a story with no conflict is boring, so is a character who is perfect.

Terri Tiffany said...

Oh yeah, my characters have tons of weaknesses. That's what makes them for real in my mind:)) Love that people do that with their characters.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

My current MC has major judgemental problems when it comes to Christianity. She's growing out of that though. ;)

PatriciaW said...

I read Myra's recent post about the Moral Premise book over on Mary DeMuth's site, I believe. Got my curiosity piqued too. Enjoy Natasha's class.

This is making me think. I think my heroine's major weakness is that she doesn't apply herself. She'd just as soon walk away where others might persevere.

Linda Kage said...

Yes, those are wonderful questions, Jessica, and great for a writer because an MC's big failing is what brings out the main internal conflict in the story. So, now I'm worried. What IS my main character's major flaw? I think I'll go with: she's impetuous. She acts and talks probably when she shouldn't. Now I wonder if I help her overcome that by the end of the book. Yikes.

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

Part of my MC weakness is the hinge of the conflict--her fear of risk.
~ Wendy

Jessica said...

Hi Janna,
That sounds like good women's fiction to me! Is this the first one you wrote or the second?

Jessica said...

Hey Karen,
Makes sense to me! LOL It's our weaknesses that will hopefully drive us to God, after they create some conflict. LOL

Jessica said...

Hi Kristen,
That's so true of many women. :-( But it sounds like this weakness is propelling the story and it'll be interesting to see how things play out. :-)

It's nice to meet you too! I saw your face in the corner but couldn't click on you for the blog.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jess -

I always give my MC's flaws and weaknesses. My latest MC thinks she's driven by conviction, but it's actually fear.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Jessica said...

Oooh, that's interesting Susan, and so true. I love the twist inherent in your sentence.

Jessica said...

Exactly Stephanie! LOL

Keli Gwyn said...

Jess, great question to ponder, as usual. My current MC, a widow, is afraid to take a risk. She's been hurt by men who let her down in the past, so trusting the new man in her life is hard for her to do. As a result, she clings too tightly to her daughter, and this causes conflict.

Jessica said...

Hi Terri,
I like them to be imperfect too. Makes me feel better. *snicker*

Jessica said...

Eileen,
That sounds very interesting for an inspirational. I bet it adds lots of conflict and emotions.

Jessica said...

Hi Patricia,
I didn't realize Myra had a post up over there. I think I'm going to go check it out as it's really intriguing me.
So your heroine gives up easily...hmmm, fear of success? Or she just doesn't care enough?

Thank you for stopping back my place. :-)

Jessica said...

LOL Linda! Impetuosity is awesome. You could make it a failing and a strength, depending how you go about it. Good luck!

Jessica said...

Hi Wendy,
That's a great one. I think we've all be afraid of risk and I could definitely relate to that.

Jessica said...

Keli,
Excellent. I'm sure the daughter doesn't like it either. I wouldn't. This fear is so real that I think every woman could understand and sympathize.

T. Anne said...

Wait! My MC IS perfect! )Just kidding) she's so vulnerable and self deprecating and timid and well the list goes on and on. What I like best, is the fact she's very relatable. I think young teen girls would connect with her on a personal level.

Jill Kemerer said...

When I'm reading, I need flawed characters. I love watching them grow and learning why they act the way they do.

When I'm writing, my characters are always flawed!

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

and you'll be sharing all the info from natasha's class on blogger... :)

Nancy said...

I think weaknesses are easier because they tend to move the plot along. It was thinking of one specific virtue that was new to me,as opposed to just being a fairly moral person. The weaknesses just come as I write and I do plot points that way.

SM Blooding said...

I love to read books where the characters have weaknesses! I also love to WRITE characters that have weaknesses. Who was it that said that therapists are supposed to help people past their troubles, but writers go out of their way to PUT their characters in trouble? Yeah, when the character has weaknesses, it's easy! LOL!!

ElanaJ said...

This is something I try really hard to do, because I don't like reading about perfect people. I want them to struggle with something, just like I do.

Dara said...

Well, my character's virtue is a little hard to see at first, considering she's a monster...but it's there. Mainly that she's ridiculously devoted--to her goal and eventually when it comes to loving others. She's also very charming (she knows how to exude that grace and charm like no other!)

But she can be manipulative in some degrees, even if it's underlying as her "human" form. And
devotion can turn to obsession and that in turn can lead to jealousy and dangerous behavior.

She's a very passionate and often conflicted character. :P

Jessica said...

Hi T. Anne, so is this one for your new YA manuscript? The teen years are very uncertain for many girls so they probably would relate.

Jessica said...

Hi Jill and Elana,
I like to do this too, and it's very natural to the story. I'd have to wonder at a writer who could create an interesting, perfect character. LOL

Jessica said...

But of course Jeannie!!! :-)

Jessica said...

Hi Nancy,
I actually think I may have phrased the post wrong because I was thinking about there being one, defining vice of our characters and how it might tangle with their one, defining virtue.
I definitely agree that weaknesses are easier. LOL Maybe because we're so acutely aware of our own?

Jessica said...

Hi SM,
Yep. It's SO fun to get our characters in trouble. It's a little scary how much we enjoy it. *snicker*

Jessica said...

Dara,
I think it's awesome how you can that your characters strength/virtue could easily become a vice! She sounds very interesting. :-)

Deb Shucka said...

I think in real life there's a direct connection between our virtues and flaws - two sides of a coin. The shadow of the light. So I appreciate it when a writer is able to create characters that show that dichotomy.

Jessica said...

Hey Deb,
Dichotomy is a beautiful word, isn't it? :-)

Katie Ganshert said...

My hero's weakness is that his sense of self-worth is wrapped up in his performance - so he's constantly striving to prove himself. And yes, this definitely drives his motives/goals. :)

Kathryn Magendie said...

I am finding that Virginia Kate's weaknesses, or flaws, are showing through much more in this second book than i nthe first - because she was younger in the first, and because her parent's flaws and weakenesses overshadowed the children's....

Some of her flaws surprised me - but they are hers...and she must work through them....

Jeanette Levellie said...

Well, since I'm my main character, yes, she has plenty of flaws. There is not room on the internet to list them all, but a few are impatience, insecurity, caring too much what others think, and a general lack of tolerance for anyone who doesn't think exacly like she does.

But I am so much fun that I more than make up for my plethora of faults! ahahahaha!

Jessica said...

Katie,
That's a great one! Nice job. :-)

Jessica said...

Kathryn,
That's so interesting. Well, have fun helping her work through this stuff. LOL

Jessica said...

Jeanette,
I'm having a hard time believing that list. :-P

Jessie Oliveros said...

I'm not very creative, because I keep writing my own weaknesses into my characters. A little too self-revealing.

Jessica said...

Hahaa! LOL Jessie, I've done that a bit. No worries though. Hopefully people will be so caught up in your characters and story that they don't even think of you. :-)

Jeanette Levellie said...

Jessie; That's because you don't live with me! LOL!

Genny said...

I think weaknesses in our characters are what make them real and, in turn, beautiful. :)

Kara said...

Weakness in a character gives you lots to work with. It's a good thing:)

AngeliStarr said...

I find it that when our main character's have flaws it adds dimension to them. you see sides to the person you would never see if they were "perfect"

PLUS everyone likes drama. whether its reading about it, causing it, or experiencing it. So without the flaws, you might not have any readers! lol

with that said, I usually have phases with my MCs. I phase in and out of giving my MC one particular flaw OR various. When I focus on one particular flaw, sometimes it may be a "good" flaw(things that people might consider a good characteristic) or a "bad" flaw(things that people may find annoying or not intriguing.)

T. Anne said...

Gosh...her biggest weakness is her (perfectly natural) insecurities. I think I really need to tease this out a bit. Thank you Jessica for giving me something more to learn about my beloved MC. (She's like a child to me, and everyone knows our children have no flaws right?) ;)

T. Anne said...

Oh, oh! She's deathly afraid of monkey's and yet pushes this insane fear aside to volunteer at the rescue shelter. (um cause the cute boy's mom runs it...duh..) =)

Jessica said...

Haahaa, a protag afraid of monkeys!! NOw that's something that makes her real, a very strange quirk. Heehee.
You made me laugh, T. Anne, about the kids' perfection. :-)

Jessica said...

Hi Angeli,
That's what I was really thinking about, giving our characters one main vice. Not even really a flaw, but something wrong that they struggle with.
You're right, drama is awesome. LOL