Everyone is broken!

Posted on 07/05/2012

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Everyone has their flaws.

But most of ours are pretty small. Maybe you leave the towels on the floor in the restroom, or don’t put the twistex back on the loaf of bread after making a sandwich.

But when writing characters in prose, your characters flaws must be something prominent and something that must be overcome.

I could never quite figure this one out. It seems like every character I read about in most novels had some serious issues in their lives. Why are we as readers so enamored with the flawed hero? I truly never was, and my first few stories illustrated that to a high degree. My protagonists were just dudes living their lives, when chaos and mayhem came a knocking. But apparently, that isn’t what the main body of readership is out there looking for.

No, no, no! They’re looking for sad protagonists who had either had a loss, or have some serious mental issue or medical issue to overcome. We like our people broken, but what does that say about us?

Most people like to put on the façade of “Hey everything’s all right over here.” Seriously, what do you say in reply to people when they ask, “How are you?”  The instant answer is “fine”.  Not, “I have a herniated disk in my back, I have gout, and it burns when I pee.”

And even if it were, most of us don’t really have major issues in our lives we have to overcome. Most of our lives are pretty standard fare, boring.  But—we don’t like reading about people like us. We like reading about people with huge issues in their lives where they are stuck at every turn. And how they have to overcome, not just the alien horde flying in from the Oort Cloud but their own penchant for single-malt scotch and their relationship with their daughter. And then, if you’re truly an adept writer, you have to tie all that crap together into one smooth flow where, by overcoming his alcohol addiction, John can then start building bridges with his daughter, and by doing that, it is the key to kicking some alien butt.

Masterful. It’s been done many times by many authors. And let me tell you, it ain’t easy to do.

I am currently working on the characters for a new story idea I had, and I am making them broken but productive citizens. And let me tell you, it’s more fun writing broken characters. More fun to play with their brains and attack their sensibilities. I am actually enjoying character creation for the first time in a long time.

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Posted in: Writing