Happy Friday everyone, and a happy Easter weekend to everyone. It’s time to get our chocolate on, lol! I’m heading out of town, and with fingers crossed that the weather holds out. While not unusual in Canada, no one wants snow to ruin their Easter fun.
For today’s post I want to discuss the “too perfect” characters some authors expect us to buy into. Now, to be clear, I’m talking about human characters mainly but also paranormal. Aliens are outside my realm of writing, so they are exempt from today’s roasting. Everything else is fair game, so here we go.
We humans as a species are imperfect – fact. We all have flaws whether we admit to them or not – fact. We all have at least one thing, often more than one thing, that we absolutely hate about ourselves – fact. Absolutely no human being on earth is perfect – fact. I’m sorry if this has caused anyone some upset, but it happens to be the truth. Anyone that says otherwise is a bold faced liar.
So why the fuck do authors continue to make characters flawless in every way?
Let’s be clear, I don’t mean in appearance because this is not the point of today’s post. Appearance is only the books cover. Do we occasionally get snagged first by the hottie on the cover? Sure, and there’s nothing wrong with that or admitting to it. But if that’s ALL we’re looking at then it’s a pretty shallow interpretation. We have to get to know the heart of an individual to truly understand them. Looks may be our instinctive first impression, but it should never, ever be the last. We as human beings are run by chemical and electrical impulses, but it’s the story behind the cover that gives us the context we need. And now that I’ve mixed metaphors, and realities around, let me get back on track a bit here.
Every character needs at least one flaw. Not merely hair that’s unruly or a crooked tooth giving a smile some character, although it does help, but some quirk or trait or situation that makes them more human. Yes, not every character is human, fully or otherwise. But for the readers very human brain to better relate they have to see in each character something that makes them flawed or different or unique. Maybe your character was injured, and everyday is a struggle. Maybe s/he never learned to read until s/he was an adult and still struggles from time to time. You get the idea.
Too perfect characters are the ones with every hair in place, or that just styled look that we all (at least once) wish we had going for us at some point. They have the job, the car, own their house/condo before they’re fifty, dream job, amazing high powered friends, etc. They are the unicorn among the cattle. Look too long or hard and you’ll pretty much go blind. They can do no wrong. And, let’s be honest here, they are as boring as fuck! No one, I repeat, NO ONE is perfect.
Yes, romance is fiction. Yes, there is a fantasy element to romance works. Yes, we all have had dreams about “that” guy being ours. But the sad, harsh reality is that “that” guy is either the biggest dick on the planet, would have you bored to tears before your first drinks arrived, or even worse still, he bats for the other team. Talk about depressing, right?
People screw up, sometimes in little ways and sometimes to epic extremes. This is a fact. This is a reality. And when a character (male or female) screws up and has to dig themselves from the hole they just dug. They’re driving a beater that’s being held together by duct tape and a prayer. They’ve had some unexpected expense crop up that has them sweating making rent, the car payment, or the bill payments. They got a cold they just can’t seem to shake. They have hay fever, or allergies, or something else that seems super mundane but is necessary. We’ve been there, lived through it, or known someone that’s been there, we can all relate to them.
So, authors one and all, remember the seemingly little things. The details that turn your perfect smiling, classical beauty, sex goddess into someone a little less other worldly, and let’s your readers feel closer to them. It doesn’t have to be much, but even a little something makes a huge difference. Keep it real as it were.