Finding Depth in Imperfection: Crafting Compelling Characters

Finding Depth in Imperfection: Crafting Compelling Characters

Finding Depth in Imperfection: Crafting Compelling Characters

Posted on 03/08/2024 Evan Swensen
Finding Depth in Imperfection: Crafting Compelling Characters

In storytelling, crafting compelling characters is an art form that often presents writers with a common dilemma: the overly virtuous protagonist. We’ve all encountered them – those protagonists who are just a tad too perfect, too righteous, and consequently, too annoying. While having an idealistic character can be appealing, they must remain relatable and grounded, as any “normal” person would.

So, what’s the fix for this all-too-common problem? Sometimes, it’s as simple as a subtle adjustment. Examine your lead character’s daily routines, hobbies, or less-than-stellar habits. Perhaps your hero has an insatiable 16-cup-a-day coffee addiction that they can’t kick. Or maybe your heroine is perpetually tardy because she can’t resist hitting the snooze button on her alarm one too many times.

This approach to character development is reminiscent of the advice found in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. In his book, King emphasizes the importance of creating authentic and multifaceted characters, even if they exist within fantastical worlds or extraordinary circumstances. By imbuing your protagonist with relatable quirks and flaws, you breathe life into their character, making them more captivating and endearing to readers.

In her novel Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert explores embracing imperfections in the creative process. Just as in writing, Gilbert suggests that by acknowledging and embracing the imperfect aspects of our characters – be it their idiosyncrasies or shortcomings – we can unlock new depths of authenticity and resonance in our storytelling.

Consider the beloved character of Harry Potter, created by J.K. Rowling. While Harry embodies many admirable qualities – bravery, loyalty, and resilience, to name a few – he’s far from flawless. His stubbornness, occasional recklessness, and moments of self-doubt contribute to his character’s relatability and appeal. These imperfections make him feel like a real, flesh-and-blood individual rather than a mere caricature of heroism.

Ultimately, the key to creating compelling protagonists lies in striking a delicate balance between idealism and imperfection. By infusing your characters with relatable quirks and flaws, you enhance their authenticity and deepen the emotional connection between them and your audience. So, the next time you find yourself grappling with an overly virtuous protagonist, remember: a little tweak can go a long way in transforming them from a two-dimensional archetype into a fully realized, captivating character.

Evan Swensen
8370 Eleusis Drive
Anchorage, Alaska 99502
(907) 349-2424

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