Monday, March 9, 2009

Do You Like Flawed Characters?

So I'm having a mini-survey this week on this. I hope some people care to comment.

Basically the question is, do you want your characters as readers to be flawed? Do you mind if they sometimes are weak or indecisive? Do you like it when sometimes they make mistakes? Or don't always stand up for what they want? Or would you rather most of your characters were strong, take-charge individuals (not necessarily perfect), but always taking the high road and usually making the right decisions? Can you respect a character who sometimes takes the coward's way out?

What prompts this? Just wondered because sometimes I write pretty screwed up characters myself and on occasion I get comments or reviews about one of the main characters in my stories not always being likable, so I wondered if readers prefer less flawed characters.

ETA: Authors and Readers are welcome to post their thoughts in the comments section. Feel free to use your own characters or your favorite characters or whatever as examples too.


  1. I think flawless or perfect characters are boring. If they're perfect, how would I believe that anything bad (aka interesting) would happen to them? They would just handle any obstacle with utter perfection.

  2. I think so, too, Jennifer. There's even a term, "Mary Sue" characters. That's for a female character, but I can't remember the term for the male perfect character.

    I know when I read books I prefer flawed, screwed up characters, but I wonder if there is a point where readers might think a main character is so flawed they lose their empathy with that character.

  3. And by flawed, I don’t mean Too Stupid To Live (TSTL) or abusive main characters (unless we’re talking villains). No one likes their protags to be TSLT or abusive.

    For example, is it okay for one of the heroes to make a bad decision or even no decision? I don’t mean to necessarily use my own characters here, but in Jake’s Regret, Jake makes a pretty bad decision eleven years before by breaking off his relationship with Damian, and frankly, if Damian hadn’t pursued Jake again all these years later Jake probably never would have acted. Do you think this makes the character too weak?

    What makes a character, especially a man, too weak? Is it okay for him to cry? To be suicidal? If he cheated in the past is that okay? Is that forgivable? What about having an addiction? How much is too much angst? Do you prefer light comedy to more emotionally driven characters?

    See now I am going off on a tangent! LOL

  4. Interesting questions, Shawn! I prefer my characters flawed - it makes them interesting and gives them somewhere to grow from.

    Personally, I have a soft spot for beta heroes and I usually don't get into super strong, confident alphas, unless they are screwed up a bit inside. Like in Perfect Man, Craig looks like he's perfect, but he's actually far from it. But if Craig really were perfect, then how fun would that book be? Alex and Craig go on a lovely, angst-free date and then live HEA? I think perfect people are actually quite boring.

    How weak is too weak? It truly depends on the character and their background. His actions need to be grounded and believable. I can take a guy cheating and making stupid decisions in the past, as long as he doesn't continue to repeat his mistakes, and if he does slip, he must learn from it. Most importantly, the guy has to grow throughout the book, and gain strength by the end. If he remains weak throughout, then he's not at all appealing to me. At some point, he's got to use the balls god gave him. ...and not just for fun stuff. ;) sorry, couldn't resist. LOL

  5. I don't like reading about perfect characters. If a character doesn't have some skeleton in the closet, or emotional baggage of some kind then the story usually doesn't appeal to me.
    Everyone make mistakes and has to live with them. We as people do it everyday, which is how we grow and learn and hopefully become better people. Heroes should be the same way.
    I can't relate to people who always make the right decision or the have the picture perfect past...who can really?
    I even like heroes that aren't physically perfect too. It's always interesting to read about a beautiful man falling in love with the average Joe or the geeky guy, you know?
    I don't think it's a secret that I love your heroes...every flawed inch of them. That to me is what makes them perfect:)

  6. Thanks for weighing in Ava and Daisiemae (and Jennifer above).

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who likes flawed characters.

    And like you said, D, people in real life make mistakes all the time. That is what makes us human after all.

    Hopefully, I haven't written any characters (well protags) who have made unforgiveable mistakes.

    Are there mistakes someone makes that are we couldn't forgive?

    I remember years ago my friends and I saw a movie. I think Keanu Reeves was in it but I'm not 100% sure. Anyway, in the movie, one friend ends up killing another friend and the remaining friends cover up for the murderer. My friends and I all looked at each other and said the same thing, if you kill my friend, I turn you in. Sorry. I am not covering for you. So, I think a character committing a murder would certainly be too tough to get past.

    Are there others?

  7. When a hero cheats is almost a deal breaker for me. Because I don't like menages and I like my heroes commited, when one cheats I feel like I have been betrayed, too.
    There are two books that I have read where one hero cheats on the other and I was able to forgive him along with the wronged hero.
    One was ReneCade by Cameron Dane. I literally cried with Ren cheated on Cade. I almost stopped reading it altogether, but I loved both Cade and Ren so much I couldn't. Ren really worked hard to earn Cade's (and my) trust back. In the end I was hoping Cade would forgive him just as much as Ren did. Ironically, ReneCade is probably one of my all time favorite books. I have read it so many times I am surprised the ebook file even opens
    Bareback by Chris Owen is another book where Thor cheats on Jake. This was a harder sell for me. I was so angry with Thor I almost didn't forgive him, and honestly wasn't sure if Jake was right to forgive him like he did. I wasn't sure he had earned his trust back. I liked Jake throughout the book, but as I type this I realise I never really forgave Thor...that's interesting, huh?
    I honestly haven't read many books where a hero kills another, or something major like that. I think it would be a hard sell to the reader if a hero commited such a sin. It would depend on the situation and how much he has paid for it.
    Cheating seems to be the big one. I have talked with me friends about it and most people DO NOT forgive the cheater...ever.
    How about you? What do you think of cheating heroes?

  8. I do agree it is a very hard thing to forgive. I am, of course, hoping it is forgiveable as I have a book coming up at the end of April, where one hero (Brad) cheats on the other (Justin) in the past. It causes their breakup for many years. The book is called Trust and is all about whether Justin can ever forgive Brad.

    It is a tough question for me and a tough one for Justin, too, but oddly enough as I was writing it my favorite character in the book ended up being Brad. He is the most sympathetic if that makes sense. But the cheating happened in the past when they were quite young.

    Honestly I think I would have more of a problem if it were two characters I'd already spent a long time with and one of them cheated, as seems to be what you are describing in those books. I haven't read them but intend to one day.

    Yeah, I think as far as killing, if the person were a warrior than that might be more understandable. I have a medieval romance where a character is under an enchantment and while under the enchantment he kills a priest. You may be surprised to hear that he was actually the favorite character of a great many readers. I think it is all in the execution.

    For me as a person, yeah, cheating is hard to forgive, still I hope when Trust comes out you will give Brad a chance, :-)

  9. I don't think that will be a problem;) I am looking forward to reading it!