I can tell by the silence no one is shocked by this.
This is a post about writing. It might not appear to be one until the end. If you stick with me, I'll give you a cookie. Or a cupcake. Mmmm...cupcakes.
Alright, back to the subject at hand. The truth is, I'm not the only flawed one in this room. We all are. Hopefully you aren't shocked by that statement. If you are, you might want to rest that big head of yours. Go on, I'll wait for you.
In reality, the idea of a 'perfect' person is so ridiculous. It irritates me when you hear someone say, "Oh, he's perfect." Perfect? I think not.
First off, we're human, which means we make mistakes. Those mistakes make us flawed. Hence, we are not perfect. Also, we live in a world where we have to be flawed to survive. That might sound backwards, but it's true. In this day and age, we are encouraged to acquire certain flawish (not a word!) characteristics, such as ruthlessness, arrogance, defensiveness, and a vast array of other not-so-perfect traits. Just because we are encouraged, doesn't mean we should embrace them, though.
Unlike a lot of people, I know what my flaws are.
And I'm not talking about my physical flaws, like the bumps around my eyes (thank you, ex-boyfriend, for pointing those out and giving me something else to be self-conscious about), the stretch marks on my hips, the scar on my forehead, or my soft little belly. No. The truth is, while I consider those flaws, someone else might not. Actually, someone, somewhere might actually think those things are *gasp* endearing.
No, I'm talking about my character flaws. And there are many. The worst one is my trust issues. It takes me a long time to trust someone, and even then I don't know how deep that trust actually runs. This stems from believing that no matter what, people are going to disappoint me, and most likely double cross me. And this isn't the wild, wild, West, you know. I should be able to trust my friends and family and lovers without worrying about when, and how, they're going to betray me. (Don't dwell on the fact that 'lovers' is plural. It was for artistic merit. I only have one lover.) The point is, I'm not a Russian spy who has people targeting me for information. So, why the heck do I insist on throwing up my guard and keeping people at arm's distance?
It's exhausting being damaged.
All jokes aside, I'm not as bad as I used to be. I've learned to identify when I'm starting to shut people out, and most importantly why. Also, I've managed to learn the difference between someone hurting me on purpose and not. It all comes down to intentions. If someone didn't mean to hurt you or betray your trust, that's when forgiveness comes into play.
Which is another one of my flaws. I always say I forgive, but I never forget. And the truth is, I don't really forgive all that often. I blame my impeccable memory. Sometimes I wish it wasn't so good. It's like I can trace back everything someone has ever said and done and pick it apart until I convince myself they aren't worth my time. So not fair.
Oh, I guess I'm not fair either. :-/
Anyways, this blog isn't about my flaws. Well, not completely. I'm giving you examples of my issues, so that you can see I'm not perfect. Once again, not breaking news to anyone.
Now, how does being aware of your flaws improve your writing?
Once I pick up a book, there are very few reason why I will put it down again. The biggest one is believable characters. I loathe characters that are seemingly 'perfect'. Unrealistic women running a marathon with perfect hair and skin make me want to scream. Men who do and say everything right make me want to break expensive antiques. Teenagers who hate their parents for no good reason or the reverse, kids who are completely well adjusted. Both make me want to torch something.
Does that seem a bit excessive?
The most important thing you can do for your novel is to craft characters who are real. People want to be able to identify with your MC, not scoff over the ridiculous things they do and say. Especially if they are a perfect, bubbly, blond hair, blue-eyed vixen who works as a high powered lawyer, runs ten miles a day, volunteers at a homeless shelter and saves puppies. I mean, that's just setting people up to hate her! Well, at least me. This could all be personal preference, but I doubt it. Giving your characters flaws, develops them and transforms them from flat to round. If this is something you've never thought about, maybe you should. And not in regard to breasts, thanks!
Whenever I start crafting a character, I sit down and think about what makes them different from me. And, more importantly, what do I have in common with them. The more I have in common, and the things I recognize that are different between us, allows me to craft an authentic cast of players in my story.
First, I start out with the basics.
Do they smoke? Bite their nails? Refuse to wear glasses so they squint all the time? Do they have a catch phrase? Or an obsession with plaid? Tattoos? Piercings? Laugh lines? Can they blow bubbles with their spit? Knit? Sew? Cook?
After I establish the fun, quirky stuff, I delve deeper into their minds. Do they seek parental approval? Are they happy with who they are? Do they even know who they are? Do they struggle with getting close to someone? Are they a hopeless romantic? Low self-esteem? An ego? Do they think inappropriate things are funny? And do they have any toxic thoughts?
These questions will help you to get to know your character. And you need to know him/her thoroughly. Mostly because you're going to write eighty thousand words about them and they better be interesting enough to not only keep your reader interested, but keep you interested as well. After all, if you can't stay interested enough to write the damn book how do you expect a reader to? Or an agent? Or publisher? Or your mother?
Once you figure out the flaws, which I think are one of the most important things to iron out, you will have well-rounded characters who won't let you down. Not only will your dialogue and action be stronger, because they aren't doing or saying something that contradicts key components of who they are, but scenes will develop faster. The book will simply flow.
So, embrace the flaws. Not only your own, but your characters too!
On Book Launching - Debbie Bennett
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