Friday, April 6, 2012

A to Z Challenge: F is for Flaw




Welcome to Day 6 of the A to Z Challenge

Many bloggers have chosen a theme for the A to Z.  My pledge since becoming a blogger is to post about writing, so for this event, I will being posting about what I've learned about writing a novel.

________

F is for flaw:  a feature that mars the perfection of something; a defect or fault.  (Dictionary.com)

In order for readers to identify with a protagonist, the character must be relatable.  The easiest way to pull that off is to make him similar to the reader, as if he could somehow find himself in the same situation and have a comparable response.  But to make the protagonist interesting, he shouldn’t be perfect, but rather flawed, though not fatally so.  Most often, it’s this very flaw that most interferes with the protagonist achieving his goal. 

He must be likeable and have redeeming qualities, but even if he seems or does something contemptible, the reader must care how and why he got that way in the first place.  In this case, he should be self-aware, have a self-loathing and the courage to change.  Though there is little sympathy for a willfully self-destructive man, we can forgive him if he’s at least trying to be good. 

Most readers can fall in love with the lost and despondent protagonist, as long as they have a reason to want his suffering to end.  Even a tragic character must have something to hope for, and a secret strength within that will allow the reader to bond.  Readers respond to conflicted, fallible characters who endure the challenge and come out a different person in the end.

In my novel, the protagonist’s greatest flaw is that he can’t see, and therefore won’t acknowledge, that he is flawed.  So when he does the unforgiveable, his self-image is destroyed, but he works to right the wrong he’s committed, and redeems himself in the process.                   

I favor the bad boy myself.  What about you?  Do you look for a solid, upstanding protagonist, or do you prefer the darkly flawed variety?  

19 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I like the ones with flaws and quirks!

Siobhan said...

Me too. I'm not interested to read about a 'perfect' character because that is unbelievable to me. Nobody is perfect no matter how 'upstanding' you are.

Stephen Tremp said...

Mine started out with quite a fe flaws. Arrogant. Womanizer. Irresponsible. Almost got him killed too. SO as part of his character arc he has to overcome his shortcomings and grow up real fast. Great question!

Bish Denham said...

We all have flaws, I like my characters to have flaws. But I'm not into the bad-boy thing, or characters that are too dark. I like a more subtle shading.

Maurice Mitchell said...

I've noticed that it's the fatal flaw that makes a character interesting. Perfection is boring. New follower via Alex!
- Maurice Mitchell
The Geek Twins | Film Sketchr
@thegeektwins | @mauricem1972

Donna K. Weaver said...

I think I like Anne Shirley's approach to the bad boy--more that I like a guy who could be bad but chooses not to. =D

Sara said...

I love flawed characters. Writing them, creating them, reading them. Playing the game of trying to figure out exactly how flawed they can be before you cross the line between flawed and fatal.

I also love the bad boy. I always find myself asking what happened to them, and sad when the loose, at least the good ones.

nutschell said...

i like protagonists with flaws--makes them more real in my imagination.
Great A-Z post!
Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

Kelley said...

I agree. In order to identify they must be flawed.

I'm trying to start my current WIP at a pretty extreme with my MC. Having her a bit more flawed then we'd normally see from an MC. The trick is making sure the reader still likes her...or is at least willing to keep reading :)

L.G.Smith said...

I'm a half and half girl. A mix is always more interesting.

Nicky Wells said...

I've got to think on that one. I think all my characters have flaws because... well, they reflect me in some capacity, and I've got plenty. Flaws, I mean. So I'm assuming it's all there, and all good but I haven't really made that conscious. Food for thought!

The Golden Eagle said...

It depends on just how dark and how prevalent the flaws are. I don't mind characters with negative streaks as a whole, but too much and I will end up not caring or hoping they fail.

Julie Musil said...

Ooooh, definitely flawed! Perfection is WAY too boring :)

Bonnie Rae said...

Oh girl, I am all about dark and flawed!

Angela Orlowski-Peart said...

Those "perfect" characters are boring and annoying :-) The flawed ones are more realistic, thus more enjoyable.

Sarah Pearson said...

Meh, perfection is definitely over-rated :-)

Lisa L. Regan said...

I always like the character who is trying to do the right thing even when it is really hard. Someone who is trying to do their best, flaws and all. I agree, flawed is much more realistic and relatable.

Guilie said...

Definitely dark and flawed :) Great post, Nancy, and insightful. Yep, flaws definitely lift our characters out of "mundane" perfection and into the "perfect" fallibility of human. Thanks for sharing!

Joylene said...

I read your post and immediately thought of James Dean's character in "Rebel Without a Cause." He was so wonderful in that movie. He brought to the screen the vulnerability of a lost young man with such honesty. I'm still deeply moved every single time I see that movie. I want to move my readers in that way.

Great post, Nancy.