Flawed Characters and Why We Love Them
One might assume that readers would enjoy reading about heroic characters who do all the right things at all the right times and are perfect in every way. After all, we want to identify with these characters because they're who we wish we could be, right?
The fact is that perfect characters are boring, and flawed characters are interesting. The imperfect character is allowed plenty of room to change and grow throughout the course of the book. Readers enjoy the experience of watching this transformation as they cheer the characters on and grip the pages while the characters confront one obstacle after another before finally earning their reward at story's end.
That's why we read books. And yes, we do like to identify with the characters, but not because they're who we want to be, but because they share our imperfections. They're like real people, just like us. They make mistakes, just like us. They fight with their families, put the empty milk carton back in the fridge, drive off with their mug of coffee sitting on top of the car, and forget to bake cookies for the church bake sale on Sunday. Mundane as these examples are, the point is that imperfection is life, and art imitates life.
Even though the main character is flawed in some way, their attributes make them stand out and earn the admiration of readers. Their imperfections make them interesting and multi-dimensional, but it's their good qualities we hold in high regard. Their good points make them rise to the top and often assist them in overcoming the flaws that would keep them from achieving their goals.
So as we identify with the flawed characters' problems, we also see our own potential in their strengths and virtues. It's easy for us to immerse ourselves in a story about a character whose good qualities we respect.
As an example from our beloved urban fantasy genre, let's take a look at vampires, who are flawed by design. They're despicable by nature, however, our vampire heroes are conflicted about what they are and what they want out of their unlife. They're walking contradictions and we love them. Why? We don't aspire to be blood sucking fiends ourselves, but we sympathize with their plight and cheer them on when they use their dark talents to fight evil, win the woman they love, and protect the people they care about. Their stories offer the fantasy that you can be a monster and still be one of the good guys.
In my Knight's Curse series, my heroine is quite flawed and is constantly faced with choices that can go either way. She screws up sometimes, that's how she learns. She's not perfect. Chalice has lived a sheltered life so when she discovers who she really is, it takes her time to accept and learn how to deal with the magical and dangerous life she's thrust into. She makes friends and enemies, meets her fallen angel father for the first time, and falls in love with an immortal warrior named Aydin, who suffers with the same gargoyle curse.
Who would you say is your favorite flawed character and what helps you overlook their flaw to see the better person underneath?
Title: Knight's Curse
Author: Karen Duvall
A skilled knife fighter since the age of nine, Chalice knows what it's like to live life on the edge -- precariously balanced between the dark and the light. But the time has come to choose. The evil sorcerer who kidnapped her over a decade ago requires her superhuman senses to steal a precious magical artifact... or she must suffer the consequences.
Desperate to break the curse that enslaves her, Chalice agrees. But it is only with the help of Aydin -- her noble warrior-protector -- that she will risk venturing beyond the veil to discover the origins of her power. Only for him will she dare to fully embrace her awesome talents. For a deadly duel is at hand, and Chalice alone will have to decide between freedom... and the love of her life.
Title: Darkest Knight
Author: Karen Duvall
"Betray your sisters or your lover. You choose."
After the warrior she loves saved her from a murderous gargoyle, Chalice watched helplessly as Aydin turned into a gargoyle himself. Now, free from the curse that enslaved her, Chalice pledges to join her sister knights in The Order of the Hatchet -- and do whatever it takes to regain Aydin's humanity... and his love. What she encounters within their hallowed sanctuary is pure intrigue.
Someone -- or something -- is murdering her sisters in their sleep, provoking fear and suspicion among the order. Meanwhile, Aydin, unable to stay away, starts haunting Chalice's dreams, urging her onward. Ultimately, Chalice will be faced with an agonizing choice -- one that will tear away at her newfound identity and force her to choose between duty and desire...