…can be significantly overrated. In this day and age I feel like character flaws are celebrated and glorified. It’s true that they can be fun to play with and they definitely add tension and drama. But my favorite books are the ones that have inspired me.
That being said, my sister used to always critique my main characters for being “too perfect,” or “too strong.” It probably had something to do with the fact that when I was younger it was much easier to idolize people. I had less life experience and less discernment. My favorite people seemed flawless. My perspective has changed as I have grown older. About two years ago I adopted a motto: “People are complicated and that’s okay.” It can be very difficult the first time you see the weaknesses in your role models and heroes. I used to break down and cry when my favorite people let me down. But now some of my most intimate relationships are with very imperfect people. I have seen the good in them and I have seen some ugly in them.
As a writer I want to write about real people, not people who could never actually exist. I want the authors I read to be passionate about their story (J.R.R. Tolkien said that he wrote the kind of story he would want to read). But it can be irritating when it becomes clear that the author is just writing their own personal fantasy. Some of the romance books and young adult fiction that I have read makes this mistake. Some of the characters have nothing to do with who people really are. Worse yet, they often glorify personality traits that have a darker side in reality (being a stalker, or a control freak may be romantic for a moment but these things are accompanied by negative consequences in real life).
Granted, I am sure I have made this mistake in my own life. My characters are not always perfect either. But more and more I have come to base them off people I have known, not just ideal fantasies of the people I think they should be. It has been liberating to insert those little flaws and quirks and realize that it doesn’t make the character seem weak; it makes them more lovable. And it gives room for growth and change. (Two of my favorite things!)