Flawed Characters – Nobody Likes a Goody Two Shoes
Nobody likes a goody two shoes. OK so that statement isn’t entirely true as people do occasionally like to hear about heroes and heroines of uncompromising virtue. If they didn’t Superman wouldn’t be nearly as popular as he is given his ridiculously dull set of powers. However, there is a reason Batman is the more likeable hero of the two: he’s flawed.
In literature, film, and media the general populace always seem to gravitate more towards anti-heroes. We, as a people, love stories of heroism and valour but we also want to be able to connect to our heroes, to be able to see them as people and not Gods and it’s part of our makeup that we connect to and empathise with flaws much more readily than strengths.
For a simplified example:
If I see a character with a mighty beard I don’t automatically think “What a glorious beard. I, too, sport a beard so I will cheer for you.” However, if I see a character struggling to quit smoking because they enjoy it even though it’s bad for them, I immediately empathise with that character because I’ve been there and done that and know their pain.
It’s simplified and those are external examples rather than internal ones but I believe it makes the point. Strengths might attract us to characters, but it’s often their flaws that allow us to relate.
This is the golden rule I used when creating characters for my worlds. Each of them has to have a multitude of flaws to go along with their strengths.
In my It Takes a Thief… series I have two main protagonists. Jacques Revou is a genius thief able to learn at an incredible rate and a master of planning the perfect heist. He’s also extremely arrogant and easily distracted.
Isabel de Rosier is a gifted actress able to completely become a role, and a master thief. She also a little manipulative and has occasional temper flairs that often get her into trouble.
And these are just the protagonists and a few of their traits. My It Takes a Thief… series feature a large supporting cast each with their own peculiar set of flaws and strengths.
Here in the real world we all have flaws, not one of us is perfect (not even me), and we’re all a little bit crazy and we like our heroes and heroines of fiction to be the same way. Once we’re connected to those characters on an emotional level we can laugh along with them, cry along with them, feel fear along with them and, eventually even mourn their passing (I don’t necessarily mean their deaths but those special times when you finish a book and suddenly something feels like it’s missing almost as if you just said goodbye to an old friend).
It’s human nature that we connect to, empathise with, and fall in love with flaws. BUT we fall in line behind strengths.
Bio: Hailing from all over England; north, south, and everything in between, Rob J. Hayes is the author of the dark fantasy series The Ties that Bind and also the steampunk caper series It Takes a Thief… He’s also an avid card gamer, reader of books, watcher of things, and player of video games.