Flawed & Fabulous

Dove wrapper

Besides the fact that this is evidence that I've eaten a Dove chocolate caramel, what non-addicts might not realize is that there are little fortune-cookie-style messages hidden on the inside of every foil wrapper. Why we need these little bursts of positive self-esteem when we are obviously about to consume a ton of empty calories is the sort of mind-bendy marketing ploy that I can't quite wrap my head around, but that's why I'm in fiction writing and eating gobs of chocolate in the first place. That said, this particular one caught my eye and got the little hamster wheels turning in my brain, because it captured one of the things I think make the best writing: it's the flaws that make a character interesting.

You ever meet one of those people who seem to be the best at everything? She looks fabulous, dresses at the height of fashion, has tons of friends and a loyal, handsome boyfriend, she gets great grades, does a socially-acceptable sport or has great team spirit, shows ambition and empathy in equal amounts, is talented and family-oriented and dedicates her free time to her religious association of choice and is appropriately socially active. She's Miss Perfect! But here's the hitch: nobody really likes Miss Perfect. (Or at least likes to read about Miss Perfect...with some exception.) In fact, being perfect becomes the flaw on which everyone else can hang their hat as the reason not to like her. Call it human nature or chalk it up to the green-eyed monster, but people like to see how far the mighty will fall.

Of course, we also like to see the underdog succeed.*

In order for readers to root for your character, we have to see the flaws that are inherent in her/him, the ones that get in the way of success and clean communication, the ones that s/he will have to fight in order to overcome and make their way to happiness. These are everything from the "nerds" to the noble tragic heroes, the stereotypical "dumb blondes" to Edward Gorey-esque orphan castaways, we feel for the person who struggles and wince when s/he falls prey to their own shortcomings. But we need there to be shortcomings to make characters seem more human, more sympathetic, more likable, more engaging, and more real. Be sure to counterbalance all the good in your MC with equal doses of not-so-good, some of which may be solved and overcome and some of which may be as constant as Harry's "bit of a saving people thing." Some parts of us are here to stay and will drag us into the mire time and time again.

And we're eager to watch.

Keep this in mind the next time you're reading or writing or enjoying a piece of heavenly chocolate: the truth is, everyone worth knowing is both flawed AND fabulous!

* With the exception of Ferris Bueller. But, then again, the whole point is that he's the exception to the rules!


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