Katy Lee here. Last week I spoke about the annoyingly flawed Drama Queen—the character a reader wants nothing more than to reach their hands into the book and shake the tiara right off their perfectly coiffed head.
But what about the other character extreme? The protagonist who does everything right, makes perfect choices, and has no faults or weaknesses.
YUCK! Talk about a downer.
Instead of escaping into a fun and uplifting experience from our everyday lives, we get a character that makes us feel guilty for not measuring up. They can even make us feel unhappy with our lives and choices. The reader needs to see at least a bit of themselves in the character if they are going to relate to them or their plight.
Heroes who are sweet and gentle, with loads of money, and who put the men in GQ to shame sound great, but without a wounded soul, or a vendetta to rectify, or a shady past that comes to light—and trips them up, they are unrealistic. Their inability to make mistakes makes them a flat and boring cliché.
And he may be your hero, but he’s playing the role as villain and destroying your story.
I understand readers want to escape and want to read about good, strong characters that are witty and beautiful, but there also needs to be an element of realism—a depth and dimension that shows the characters hopes, dreams, and desires, as well as their doubts, faults, and weaknesses.
Characters that never do wrong and never say the wrong thing, offer no progression to your story. If they don’t fail, then they don’t grow, and the story really isn’t a story.
But more than that, if we don’t see them fail, then we don’t really know the kind of person they are, and can’t relate to them or learn from them.
The Unlocked Secret: We are defined not by our failures, but by how we handle our failures. That goes the same for our characters. When a reader witnesses the character failing, but then getting up, dusting off, and trying again, then the uplifting experience they picked the book up for in the first place is successfully delivered—and you’ve got yourself a realistic and relatable story.