Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Magic of Character

Before I start... if I don't get my review of Gardens of the Moon up by Friday, will someone drive over here to Bellingham and kick my lazy butt? Please and thank you.

Besides that, I have a confession to make.

I may have many writing flaws (lack of organization being one of several) but I recently came to terms with one that I have tried to explain away dozens of times. It's time to face the music.

Hi. My name is Bethany Elizabeth, and I love writing perfect characters.
There, it's off my chest.

I know, I know, it's a big problem. But I'm trying to fix it one novel at a time. My newest WIP has more flawed characters, which is a step in the right direction. Still, I keep wanting to make them awesome. Noble. Heroic.

Which, as I've recently learned, is not incompatible with flawed characters. Think of Aragorn (from the movies, not the books - he's pretty flawless in the books). He's powerful, persevering, dutiful, but timid when it comes to claiming the throne.

And, as the game Dragon Age II has taught me, sometimes those flaws can be massive. Almost irreconcilable to a good person. The game excels at flawed, fascinating characters, and maybe I'll go into that in a separate video game post.

Basically, the world (Thedas) is full of mages, ruled over and protected by the Templars, a group of religious warriors. The reason Templars rule over mages is because mages are constantly at risk of being possessed by demons - especially when they use blood magic.

Now, not everyone is in favor of the Templars. Many support basic rights and freedoms for mages. But pretty much everyone agrees on one thing: blood magic = bad. Some mages use it out of sheer desperation, but no one wants to.

Check out the trailer for Dragon Age II - the man is the hero the player controls. (This is the second game, so most viewers already know blood magic is bad)

Wait... what? Awesome hero, nifty fight sequence... blood magic? By a hero?

And yet... you still want to play the game, right?

How do you avoid perfect characters? Or do you embrace them?



Jenna Blake Morris said...

I usually have the opposite problem -- my characters are plenty flawed, and I worry about them being sympathetic enough. Good luck with your characters! Hopefully they'll behave...or not, for this situation. (:

Sarah Allen said...

OMG, I have the exact same problem. In my creative writing class my professor said I have to get away from doing "portrait of an angel" stories :) Its so hard, because you love them so much and want to show how awesome they are, but whats helped me is remembering that adding in some bad and gritty makes the good stand out. Like, Snape for instance. He's not a nice character. He's rude and greasy, in fact. But because of that, when we realize why we should pity him and that he had so much love in him at least for Lily, it makes such an interesting, amazing contrast.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Marsha Sigman said...

I don't have that problem in fiction. Just in reality. I think my expectations are too high because I read too many

L.G.Smith said...

I do love a conflicted character. It's a tricky balance to write one though. They have to be likable yet flawed or they won't be believable, but they can't be too bad or they won't be heroic. Yeah, it's tough.

Laila Knight said...

Yup, I started out with perfect characters...but who like a goodie goodie? Not me. After I made my characters flawed they're more lovable. Hey, stop by my blog tomorrow. I gave you a Liebster thingy award. :)

Morgan said...

My characters started out as what I thought was perfect... but then I realized, they weren't. You mentioned Aragorn being flawless and yet pointed out he's hesitant to take the throne. While I find that admirable as well, I'd consider it a flaw for a king. It's a flaw in that it sometimes causes him to be uncertain, though he always manages to shove that aside when it really matters. Some times, a character's greatest strength can also be their weakness (compassionate to a fault).

Lydia K said...

I like imperfections in characters, otherwise they're too Mary Sue-ish.

Glad to meet you and your blog, I found you from Laila's blog.


Donna K. Weaver said...

One criticism about my romantic interest in my adventure romance is that he's too perfect. Which he's not, but his character flaws are in things that "don't matter". *sigh* I don't want to make him a different person, though.

Now, an example of a character that you love and find incredibly sympathetic is John Wayne Cleaver, the 15-year-old sociopath in the "I Am Not a Serial Killer" series by Dan Wells. John has horrible dreams and fantasies that suck him in. Yet he doesn't want to be like that and fights very hard against it. I would be freaked out to think a friend of mine had fantasies about torturing and killing me, yet I love John's battle with himself. I learned to love him in spite of his flaws.

Lisa Gail Green said...

It's hard to let your characters flaws show, but think of it this way, you can let yourself make them a hero in the end, just don't let them start out that way. ;D Plus aren't people more interesting when they have a flaw or two? I think so.

Kelley said...

I <3 flawed characters, but it is difficult to resist the impulse of making your MC amazing all over. I think I just try to remember that flaws are what makes a character realistic--A HUGE deal for me.

Good luck :)

Talli Roland said...

I seem to like writing dislikeable characters! Wonder what that says about me!

Lauren W. said...

I tend to model my characters after real people and I always include their flaws. I think flaws make a character feel real. But if I like them in real life then I'm hoping my audience will learn to love them--warts and all--too!