Thursday, May 9

How Perfect is Too Perfect?

So, I picked a friend up from the airport yesterday, and while we drove she started telling me about a new series she was reading.  The books sounded right up my alley--supernatural, character self-exploration and discovery, a juicy love triangle--exactly what I love in a book.  But the more she described the main character, the more skeptical I became.  The fantasy world that the author has created involves a large variety of supernatural characters with various talents, powers, and challenges.  But the main character has a little bit of everything (remember, I'm going off of a casual retelling), and I think absorbs powers from the people around her.  Sounds cool, but it also makes her pretty damn powerful.  And she becomes highly sought after in the story for obvious reasons.  And I started to think, Okay, but maybe that makes her TOO perfect.  A main character who has EVERYTHING quickly starts to become boring again because she is so highly unattainable.  (WARNING::I'm about to make a Twilight reference, please forgive me.)  I think so many girls related to Bella because she was presented as flawed and entirely average--but when she becomes a vampire and is SO PERFECT it was sort of like a slap in the face.  She went from being someone the reader thinks she could be friends with (or thinks she could be) to someone entirely unattainable and quite literally "perfect."  (Or so the vampires seem to think).  And that just plain ole irritates the crap out of me.

I have one character from one of my stories that I have struggled with, wondering if I'm making her too powerful--she is an empath of sorts, and involuntarily sees a person's memories/thoughts when she touches them.  But she struggles with this "gift" tremendously, learning to control it, fighting with it as it evolves, etc.  That struggle is how I balance her being powerful--her inability to completely harness that power lessens it and to an extent causes it to become more of a liability than a gift.

And this whole thought process led to thinking more in depth about the characters I create.  When I listed out my characters from the 2-part story I'm working on in my last post, I realized they are quite a damaged cast, yet the people who did respond to that post seemed to respond positively to them.  One of my other stories I'm working on (remember I have several between which I flip flop) also involves two rather damaged characters learning to cope with themselves and each other--in turn helping one another heal.  Most of my characters/storylines echo that same trail--broken people struggling to help each other adapt and survive.  As someone who has struggled with my own internal demons, I think I relate to characters like this in movies that I watch or books that I read, and it leads me to write these characters also.

But it also makes me RATHER intolerant to "perfect" characters--or even characters who have sort of surface flaws rather than internal, deeper wounds.

Do you have a preference for the type of main character in a story?  Does perfection, or unevenly stacked powers/traits/etc. drive you crazy or does it make no difference to you?

1 comment:

  1. I had to work out something similar in my first book. One of the characters, not very big but essential, seemed too good. I struggled with that for a while, but couldn't find a way around it. Since her part was relatively small, I don't think that little bit of perfection took much away from the plot. My MCs were definitely not perfect, and not totally bad as they seem in the beginning. Writer’s Mark


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