Frolic in the Flaws

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beautifully-flawedFlaws.

We all have them.

Be they physical, mental, emotional, or psychological. They are “given” to us in two ways. First there is our life experience. It forms who we are. It gives us baggage, issues, removes trust, and defines our loves & hates. Secondly there is the stuff we are born with; traits running about in our DNA. These are things we are born with, like our sexuality, our hair/skin/eye color, genetic/hereditary diseases, disabilities, birth-defects, and the list could go on and on.

And you know what? I’m not talking about anything you don’t know. So why talk about it here? Why talk about it at all? Well, first and foremost, because I think it’s important to love yourself and others for who you/they are. Secondly, because I wanted to piggy-back onto Melissa’s post below (because she & it are awesome), and thirdly, because just like you and people you know, your characters should be flawed, diverse, and have things about them that need some work.

flawsYou see…I love flaws.

There, I said it. Feels like I’m in a twisted form of AA at the moment but whatever.

I love the things about a person that make them unique and different…and talents are not the only thing that builds those differences. There’s this great line in a song in the musical, RENT, which is a mantra of mine: “I’m looking for baggage that goes with mine.” You see, the things about you that aren’t perfect are wonderful (if you’re not harming others), because NO ONE IS PERFECT and those notches in the otherwise smooth line of your life match up with others who have similar marks and you click together like Legos (see or attend any type of convention and you’ll know what I mean, if you don’t all ready).

If you have read any of my books you know that I have a tendency to flaw my characters. Maybe not as much physically as emotionally and personality-wise (but that is about to change, I’ll explain at the bottom in the PS section), but I give them some annoying ticks that either gel with you or don’t. This stems from my need to see the character have things that they change about themselves during a story (be it over one book or multiple books) AND from the many years I sent as an actor doing live theatre. There I was told, “not play the end,” and that as a character on stage you have to leave room to grow.

Bastille on FlawsA good/simple example would be a performer doing a scene in which they get angry (a murderous rage, perhaps) and they start that scene screaming at the other person. Other than that choice being jarring to see/hear, it leaves that character nowhere to go with that anger. If you start at the highest level of angerdom (my new word), you are going to bore the audience in a short amount of time because you’ll be a one note song…a one trick penny, and that is yawnsville, folks. Thus, the same applies to characters you write in books. If they start out knowing all the things and have tons of crazy talents they know how to use/control when a story starts, then their story is done (or close to). For if there is nothing to learn and no room to grow as a person, there’s no story. Period. Unless that character is not your primary protagonist. Hence why origin stories are so loved and done (and watched and re-watched).

Quotation-Paige-Dearth-flaws-Meetville-Quotes-240204So when you are creating that character, whether you build them from yourself, or someone you know/see, someone you wish you knew or wish you could be, or someone new from your imagination…they need to be flawed. They need to make mistakes and learn and grow or they are not relatable or interesting. The characters I like best are those that have a full story arc. Take the smash hit movie of the summer, Mad Max: Fury Road (which is really “Furiosa’s Road” if you think about it). Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron), our main character (not Max and that surprised many) is a bad ass woman who goes up against a horrible man to save a group of women and take them somewhere she thinks is safe and beautiful. She is a fighter and makes hard decisions and many (including my best friend) love her storyline.

Me? I feel the interesting part of her storyline was what lead to this point. What caused her to go from a trusting and obedient employee of Immortan Joe, to a rebel who puts her life on the line for these women when there’s very little chance they’ll make it? Sure, she does have a good arc and has to change and learn a bit, however, it’s not her character that resonated with me as much. I was a fan of Nux (played by Nicholas Hoult). I loved his character arc so much more. Why? Because in the beginning he bothered me, I didn’t like him, and I thought he was a nut-job.

Ss-mad-max-fury-road-118

Nux, from Mad Max: Fury Road

Here’s the thing…he was an ignorant, naïve, nut-job! But over the course of the movie he learns to see the value of life and death…thus, the only moment that moved me emotionally was how his arc ended…not that it ended, but in how the end of it showed his transformation of character. As many know, I love what I call a “Disney Ending” with my books and movies. I like the happy ending for all…but his story, though not happy for him, moved me to adoration vs. devastation…unlike the ending in the Divergent series books…but I’m not going to go into that except to say that big choices need validation…his got that (and a few tears even remembering his line, “Witness Me” at the end), and I was overwhelmed with emotions. Divergent? I threw my Kindle across the room. See the difference?

In short, let your characters make mistakes. Give them flaws (inward and/or outward) and let them learn and grow. Justify their choices, let them learn/grow, and be careful to not make them TSTL. My first editor used that on her review of Mark of the Necromancer a few times and I had to look it up. It stands for “Too Stupid To Live.” So that’s where you (and I, obviously) need to be careful. Sure, your character shouldn’t know stuff, but remember to not make them too clueless (*cough cough* Anastasia Steele *cough cough*). Do I want you to read my books and get frustrated with my character and want him or her to not screw up or to not say stupid stuff? I do! I want you that invested! I want you to care…and you won’t care if he/she is already perfect. I want you to go on a journey to see them grow, change, and evolve into the hero so that they earn/deserve that closure at the end…or that “Disney ending.”

Flaws Make PeopleSo after you have been inspired and built your character, go ahead and mess them up a bit. Give them something annoying, something not so awesome, throw some tragedy or hardship at them (either prior or during the story), and so on. Make them real…give them an arc we can get sucked into and enjoy. It’s the journey, not the end, which matters most. Who they are at start vs. who they are at the finish line should be very different…and if you do that, and remember not to make them TSTL, you’ll have a character people relate to, a tale they enjoy and tell others about, and something they likely will re-read from time to time. And THAT would be the bees knees, as the Brits would say.

flaws by the daily quotesThat’s it for me this time around…write hard, bathe in imagination, and frolic in the flaws! Enjoy what makes you, others, and your characters different. No one is perfect and your characters shouldn’t to be either…breathe real life into them and take them (and us) on a journey to remember!

Tamsin 🙂

P.S. I mentioned earlier than I tend to flaw my characters more in personality than in physical appearance and that was about to change. But it’s more than that…I’m stepping out of my usual boundaries and I’m very excited about it. Sure, I’m writing a book from a man’s POV in the year 1878…and that is a big difference. But he’s still white and straight and so on. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a challenge to write, but the character I was hinting to above is this:

I’m currently crafting a character for a short story who is going to be my first non-white, physically scarred, bi-sexual, female protagonist. Sure, I have minority characters in all my stories as well as gay characters…but my lead never has been and this one will be, and I’m very excited for the day you all meet her.

You may be asking why I’m doing that. Well, to quote a certain Prime Minister, “It’s 2015.” That and well…Misty Massey’s post, At Least She’s Pretty hit me hard. Go read it before you write another word; if for no other reason than to keep this point of view in mind while you craft your characters. For you see, everyone’s idea of beautiful is different because there are many forms of beauty. I want you to explore that idea as well as your types of flaws.

So go forth and create! I cannot wait to see what you come up with! 🙂

 

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