Shannon here: Linda Glaz shares insight into creating loveable characters. Comment or answer the question in this post to enter the drawing for an e-book copy of The Preacher’s New Family. Deadline: April 3rd, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Linda:
Falling in Love with Characters
Must a character be handsome or beautiful in order for readers to fall in love? Must he be tall and brilliant, she, petite and pretty, in need of a protector? What exactly do readers fall for?
Flaws. Plain and simple.
Flawed characters set them apart from the same old, same old. Anyone can write the perfect-looking man or woman. The brilliant scholar, who graduated summa cum laude after an illustrious career as the brightest student in the class. He had parents who pushed him every step even though they really didn’t need to. He simply “got” it without much effort. It doesn’t take much mettle to be the prettiest girl in the class if she had gorgeous parents and was simply born that way! But, isn’t that what we want romantic leads to be? Beautiful and talented all in one perfect body? In a word: no.
For most of you, you won’t remember this song: Patches, Recorded by Dickey Lee, Written by Barry Mann and Larry Kolber (in the sixties!!!!). She was a girl from the other side of the tracks nicknamed Patches because of her poverty. Everything about her was wrong for his life except that he saw beneath the patches and found her beautiful. None of the rest mattered until he was forced not to marry her. Well, to shorten this, let’s just say it had a tragic ending. All because she wasn’t in his league. If she had been perfect: beautiful and intelligent beyond words with the right pedigree, his parents would have welcomed her into his life.
But … the story would have been boring. Dime a dozen. Yet, because of her background, the story took another turn, and it showed each character’s worth or lack of. He proved to be a wimp who gave into his parents’ pressure. He decided not to marry her. She sat by the door each day waiting for him instead of fighting back. Each of them was flawed—dramatically. In the end, after the town found her body floating face down in the dirty river, he couldn’t accept what he’d done to her and went to the river at midnight to join her.
Now that’s a story worth telling! Those are characters to love. For me to remember that song after fifty years … just wow! They were flawed. They didn’t have what it took to stand up to hatred and bias. They only had their love. And that triumphed in the end. Sort of.
Let’s look at the female who is rather plain but brilliant. She stands out from the typical ingénue that fills the pages of most romance novels. And the guy? Tall, dark, and handsome. Neither of these sets of attributes are bad, but are they flawed as well? So they have depth? Is he running from a new relationship because of something in his past? Does it keep him from taking chances? How did his past mold him? Is she running from a disastrous relationship? Or has she struggled to earn every single penny and contribution to her life so that now, she doesn’t want to share the reins, not even for love? Are they physically or emotionally or spiritually scarred humans stumbling through life not wanting to make a connection, or are they floundering through life praying for a connection with another human who might understand their struggles?
Flawed characters, whether physically, or emotionally, draw the readers in and keep them tethered to the story. Will they fall in love in spite of their physical limitations? Will he find her beautiful anyway? Will she look past his burned face to see the tender, loving man beneath the scars? Will he give up his promise to himself in order to let her in? Can she forgive what happened in her past and learn to trust again? These questions draw us in as readers and beg to be answered. On each page. And, of course, beg to be answered in a way that lets the characters find their HEA. Or not.
We cheer for them. We hope for them. We want them to find love with each other, but we don’t want to be bored along the way. Readers want characters they will remember long after they’ve closed the book. No one who’s read Gone With the Wind will ever forget Rhett and Scarlett, two of the most flawed literary characters ever. The author continued to heap one disaster after another on their lives and all because she made her two main characters as flawed as possible. Had she fallen for him in the beginning—game over!
For true love to happen and be celebrated, allow your characters to reek of personality/emotional flaws, physical flaws, and spiritual flaws.
Then let them fall in love.
About Linda: I’m a wife and mother of three…and grandmother of four. I’ve been blessed to have had an amazing life so far: Air Force meteorologist, karate, self-defense and soccer instructor. My writing life is a 24/7 proposition. As well as writing my own stories, I am an agent for Hartline Literary Agency. I also speak at conferences, churches, ladies’ teas, you get the picture. I have a big mouth and love to share words on writing. I wear so many different hats I’m surprised I wasn’t invited to one of the Royal weddings. Blessings to everyone, may your writing dreams all come true.
About the book – The Preacher’s New Family:
PREACHER T.J. O’BRIEN ISN’T LOOKING FOR A WIFE AND FAMILY
Yet every time he sees Sarah Anne Rycroft, he feels a powerful urge to protect the beautiful young widow. When she’s in danger of losing the farm to the bank, T.J. steps in to defend Sarah against the unscrupulous banker.
Sarah knows T.J. has vowed to live a solitary life of devotion to God. Still, the single mother can’t resist the comfort and safety of his strong arms. But when he sells his most prized possession to save the farm from foreclosure, she wonders if the handsome preacher could have marriage on his mind, after all.
Question for Readers: Who are some of your favorite flawed characters?
Come back March 26th for Jenny Carlisle!