Describe a flawed character you might use as a heroine or hero in a story. How did they become so flawed? How might their flaws affect the story and what will happen to them?
Hullo from a snowy overcast Edinburgh. I know that some of you wouldn’t regard what I see out of the window this morning as being snow – or anything approaching it – but as it hardly ever snows in Edinburgh, I stand by my view.
The pic above was taken in Assynt when the DH and I made a winter trip there and saw it under snow for the first time. Our normal visits having been during the summer months.
What has the weather to do with using flawed characters in one’s writing? What if my brain conflates the image above with the dusting of white on the front path this morning? Because I am not a cold weather person and, matter of fact, dislike snow a lot, any snow triggers a disproportionate reaction in my brain. That’s a flaw in my character which might affect my behaviour and that of others.
It’s a flaw, or warp, that might cause me to stay at home missing an important event, a treat, a funeral, the opportunity to secure a job… the list is endless.
Moving on to the other types of flaws. Supposing a person has been brought up in a family group that believes ALL of the people in another family are EVIL. They live in circumstances where it’s difficult or impossible to avoid the other clan entirely. But at a crucial moment in their development, they are being taught, and influenced, by a teacher from outside the area. That person doesn’t know which family is aligned with which or, if they do, ignores the implications of such a feud. The teacher is either wholly rational (not everyone in any family can be evil) or their own irrationalities are different.
In due course, our flawed character finds themselves in danger together with one of the hated clan. They must work in harmony to save themselves/the local hospital/the barn storing the winter grain/ something IMPORTANT. They do.
Having discovered that at least one member of the other family is not a bad person, a conflict has been set up. How does the character settle back into the old life? The story is likely to be the struggle they have to climb out of hatred into rationality.
This character flaw – accepting as gospel what Mum, Dad and the other relatives say without question – is the basis of much great literature. The tragedy of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, for example. The hero and heroine move rapidly to a place of acceptance, but the families do not.
A lot of the work of one of my favourite writers, Georgette Heyer, is based on the flawed character, but is to comic effect. In Friday’s Child, for example, Sherry, Viscount Sheringham, is told within the first few pages of the book why his chosen bride won’t have him. The flaws of his character are laid out for the reader and the rest of the book is the tale of how he is made to face up to and overcome them before achieving his true life’s partner (not, by the way, the one of the opening).
And in my writing?
I’m currently tackling the planning of a serial and I have a flawed character who will in due course influence events. It’s a she and her character flaws relate to the problems of insularity and are the product of upbringing. I’m using her to encapsulate much of what is wrong in the society she inhabits. Will there be hope arising from her eventual story arc? I’m very keen to find out. Will she be affected by her ‘journey’ – oh yes!
My fellow robins, listed below, all have something to say on this subject. Do drop in on their blogs, too, and please, if you find our pieces of interest would you consider sharing through your facebook or Twitter channels? Warm thanks in advance.
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-2yB
Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com
Anne, I agree. The weather, as well as land, can become a character in its own right. Informative post 🙂
Hi Connie, thank for dropping by. Living in Britain, weather is something of an obsession maybe that’s why we use it so much, Anne
Yes, snow is OK to visit, but not to live in. Highly overrated.
I am currently using family feuds in a few short stories, for my coming anthology on REAL human nature, and will keep your analysis in mind.
Hi Bob, thanks for dropping by. Your anthology sounds v. interesting. Family feuds are a bottomless source… Anne
I LOVE Georgette Heyer. She was the author who really turned me on to reading for pleasure and while I can never measure up to her, I hope my characters are close to being as compelling as hers are. Friday’s Child was one of my favorites, too. I also loved A Civil Contract – Actually loved them all. But as you point out, it’s the flaws and misconceptions that make the growing and learning a tale worth reading.
Hullo Skye, Good to learn of another Heyer devotee. I love the sense of theatre. Her repartee is second to none and bits of some of the novels read like play-script. thanks for dropping by, Anne
Edinburgh is a beautiful city, but, by no means, warm. LOL Of course, I live in Southern California, so my definition of warm is different from yours. LOL Many years ago, I was visiting Scotland and went on a weeklong hiking trip in the Highlands. It was mid-June, rainy, windy, and 55 degrees. We’d go out and hike all day, pile into the van to return to the hostel, and return in an unheated van to a hostel where the only difference from inside to outside was no wind or rain. I was freezing. That first day, I asked them if they could turn the heat on. The owner’s response: But it’s summer. Me: But it’s freezing. Her: But it’s summer. Me: But it’s freezing. Her: All right, I’ll turn it on for you since you’re from California. Hahaha! Later, one of the other hikers, who was from England, thanked me. LOL It was a great trip with a funny story and wonderful people.
You do a lot of planning with your writing and use a lot of symbolism. I think that’s really cool. I don’t plan. Symbolism does creep in, though, but not to the extent of yours. How do you keep the writing fresh?
Hi Marci, Oh Dear, I have been in that kind of hostel and once rendezvoused in the corridor between the men’s dorm and the women’s to take the blanket my then boyfriend said he wouldn’t need! but, silver lining, if it was windy there were no midges. The planning is really hard but is required by the publisher I hope to sell the serial to. Normally, I’m a pantster. Keeping the writing fresh? Regard the tried and tested phrase/thought as a jumping off point and craft. thanks for dropping by. Anne
Me late faither was from Glesga. He said you could tell the tourists from the locals, because when it was 60 degrees, the tourists would be wearing jackets, complaining about the cold. The locals would be stripping down, rubbing on suntanning lotions, reveling in the warmth. LOL.
Since you mentioned Romeo and Juliet, I have to plug Warm Bodies, a zombie love-story movie. The hero’s flaw is that he caught the disease that remade him into a zombie. But he falls in love, and that changes everything. It’s weird and funny–my fav kind of flick! But does a great job retelling the Romeo and Juliet saga.
Hi Fiona, There are so many wonderful and wonderfully imaginative re-tellings of Shakespeare’s work. that one you mention sounds intriguing. I’ll ask the children. thanks for dropping by. Anne