All fiction is about the human experience in some way, even when animals are the characters. So who wants to read about a perfect person? Someone who has it all together, always says the right thing, does the correct thing, never reacts in an inappropriate way, never lies, cheats, steals, or schemes? There is no such person. When a reader encounters one, the character's utter perfection becomes a flaw hiding a deep-rooted problem. History shows some great examples. Of course, some of the stories of these historical beings have changed with the telling. No one living truly knows what Henry VIII or Anne Boleyn were really like. The authors studied events and journals to interpret their personalities. Which is exactly what fiction authors do.
Readers want characters they can empathize with: someone who has faced tough times filled with painful experiences and survived: difficult emotional and/or physical journeys of self discovery and courageous achievement.
My Black Angel series which starts with Rogue's Rules was about a character whose mind was destroyed but rebuilt itself as six different personalities. Crewkin also deals with loss when one member of a starship's crew survives the loss of the ship and all her crewmembers after being raised to see them as her total world. While my stories have many other character aspects and faults, most of my stories deal with abandonment or estrangement of some type, and working to be accepted as they are.
Other authors have stories about commitment, loss of all types, overcoming disabilities, learning to accept themselves, the list is near endless. So are the endings. Some survive and thrive, some don't.
Everyone learns something from reading, and I'm sure authors learn about character from the writing process.
What type of character flaws or dilemmas do you like to read about?
Dr. Bob Rich
This was scheduled for 12:30 am this morning, but somehow got switched to a draft.ReplyDelete
You make a good point that perfect people can be boring. For the same reason that a book that has no conflict in it. Conflict, and overcoming the conflict whether it be personal or in the story arc is why we read books in the first place.ReplyDelete
The latest research says that people who are voracious readers, also have more empathy for the plight of others. It's been suggested that this direct link is because when reading, the reader puts him/herself into the story as the main character, and "lives" vicariously the life portrayed. So he/she gains experience in feeling what others do.ReplyDelete
Since none of us are perfect, reading about a perfect person would be boring. We want to read about someone who has dealt with something that either we are dealing with also, or that we hope to never experience. Either way, we read to learn how the character grows while dealing. Reading is truly a way to experience other lives, and learn about them, while sitting in your chair!
Yes, Rhobin, the problem of the perfect character has been a challenge for me in my current work, the Doom Healer series. My hero Bill Sutcliffe IS the perfect person. I didn't know this when I started writing, but various characters in the story told me. So, his imperfections became his extreme empathy, so he feels pain even when his worst enemies suffer.ReplyDelete
I have read the two of your books you used as examples, and can recommend them to anyone who wants exciting science fiction.
Hi Rhobin, overcoming the temptation to make the heroine perfect is hard. Once you get a handle on it, though, the drama opens up delightfully. Anne StenhouseReplyDelete
"There is no one left alive who really knows what Henry VIII or Anne Boleyn were really like. The authors studied events and journals to interpret their personalities. Which is exactly what fiction authors do." As a history student, I kind of got a rise when I learned that historians were just kind of playing author with primary sources. I was like, "But...but we don't really know???" I really liked how you connected it to fiction writing. It really is more or less the same. :)ReplyDelete
There is supposed to be no such thing as perfection - and if there were, wouldn't we all be looking for the one flaw? Wouldn't our writer's minds be creating the 'what if' to create a plausible imperfection?ReplyDelete