Saturday, August 15, 2009

Character Faults—How Far Do We Go?

Self Portrait 1925--Agda Holst I’ll admit I’m a real fan of imperfect protagonists. If I’m reading a book and I can’t identify with the main character because they are just too sweet, then I’ll put the book down. Even Pollyanna had her moments when she wasn’t wonderful.

But then….where’s the line? How far can we push the reader before they dislike our protagonists for having too many faults? The last thing I want to do is alienate a reader by having them get frustrated with my protagonist.

This post goes along a little with my post yesterday. I feel like character qualities (good and bad) influence their behavior in a plot and the outcome of different events.

At the same time, I try to balance the good qualities and the bad ones. I tend to focus more on the bad, though—that’s the source of much of the humor in my books.

My protagonist in the Myrtle Clover series is a feisty woman. She’s smart, caring, active, and witty….but she also has a sharp tongue, a huge stubborn streak, and a proclivity to irritability.

I try to ensure that Myrtle’s warm-heartedness, even though she’s not a sentimental character, shines through her actions. I try to minimize her vices by having her machinations backfire on her in humorous ways.

Do you write protagonists with obvious vices? How do you successfully keep the reader engaged? How do you balance the good with the bad?