Here, There be a Writer

Saturday, June 28, 2014

What is it about Flawed Characters?

What makes a character flawed? Why are character such as The Doctor, Harry Potter, and Macbeth so interesting and intriguing? They are flawed and in all but one lovable. How can that be?

I have read a number of books and plays over the years, also watched a number of TV shows with rather extensive plots and well defined character. The ones that I empathize with, or that I enjoy watching/reading the most are the characters with the most flaws, or more than enough flaws. Any good story has characters, excellant stories have flawed characters that grow with the story, and truly awesome stories have characters who despite being flawed and clearly make mistakes, yet can grow throughout the story. These characters are so flawed that the reader not only empathizes with the character, but sometimes learns with the character.

That is part of why I want to tell stories, write, and also read awesome stories. I want to write the awesome stories. When I look at my bookshelves, I see very excellent and awesome stories (the strictly good or terrible end up going to the Salvo down the street). Naturally, I am drawn to stories with excellent awesome stories, characters, concepts; such as "The Dark is Rising Sequence" (Susan Cooper), "The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica" (James A. Owen), or anything written by Anne (Todd) McCaffrey. I have discussed these books/series before and what I want to talk about today will feature some others. I also see what books are on the bookshelves, everything from the Divergent series, Hunger Games, City of Bones, I want to be able to share my stories with the world, inspire others, make people laugh or cry.

When I read a book or more specifically a series, I want to travel with the characters, to live in their world for the duration of the story. After all most books/series involve travel of some sorts, or at least a mental journey. Sometimes the character travel from The Shire to Mount Doom to drop off a ring, learning, growing, and changing. Flawed characters are like any other character, but usually they have something else to overcome. Frodo Baggins, a flawed character that grows throughout the "Lord of the Rings" fighting off Orcs and Riders, dealing with the One Ring, friends, betrayal, and death.

There are others that recent have come to my attention, and the reason for today's blog. Strap your seatbelts on, its all about Flawed characters!

As an avid (sometimes fanatical) fan of Doctor Who, Sherlock, Torchwood, even Firefly, I have come into contact with a slew of flaw to extremely flawed characters and I simply love them. Take Torchwood, with Captain Jack Harkness, Gwen Cooper, Owen Harper, Toshiko Sato, and Ianto Jones, they are all really messed up, either in love with each other, sleeping with each other, choosing the wrong side, or doing things that one wouldn't suspect them doing, because they, with their flaw think it's the right thing to do. It makes for interesting stories when you see Gwen fighting between her Torchwood self and shagging Owen to wanting to make a life in the outside world with Rhys. Might not always be a happy fuzzy world, but it's emits a truth that exists in the real world. People are flawed, whether good or bad; that people feel this way and struggle to do the right thing and be good people. Sometimes people are not good. It's a truth I can see.

After having finished "The Hunger Games", I am left to digest my thoughts on Katniss, Peeta, Gale, Finnick, Plutarch, President Snow, President Coin, etc. First off, what a world to create, (claps slowly and than increase in strength to Suzanne Collins). A real world(?), present time story about struggle, politics, personal strife, love, and  torture. [Not giving spoilers here]. Katniss is the most flawed in the whole of the series. It's her story and her struggle. She is well defined in her personality and also in her flaws. The first book is riveting in its portrayal of Panem and the Games. It's an interesting concept and reminds of 1984,  Brave New World, or We with this utopian/dystopian society. Scaring stuff, because the world could end that way if not careful. But, it's set in the real time world, with barely a hint of the time frame in which it's set, could be right now, or in 100 or 200 hundred years.

The second book ("Catching Fire") I struggled with, because it reads like two separate stories not one book. Usually the second book, most often in a three book series, will often have something like a 'sophomore slump', where it struggles to keep the pace just right, yet still advance the plot. Katniss struggles, sometimes a lot, with life after the Games, but you are still rooting for her. She learns, and then sometimes has to re-evaluate her knowledge of the people around her. Then she is thrown the curve ball, a new Games, the Quarter Quell. Also riveting, even with the mid section slump. In reality, when you look at Katniss and Peeta you can see why they are the way they are and that make you want to root for them and you can understand why they are flawed. Their environment made them flaw, yet they are trying to move past it. 
By the time of "Mockingjay" you see that she is trying, even with the crazy plot driven war going, trying to move forward in her life. She was very much a child in "The Hunger Games", while "Catching Fire" she was a and awkward teenager/young adult Victor dealing with the truth of the world, and then "Mockingjay" she is now and adult, in a new role and trying to bring peace to Panem and herself. The last chapter is the most potent, giving us the chance to see Katniss grow. The last chapter, it's usually when the Hero/Heroine has to make that final choice. With Katniss it is no less easy, but you have traveled  with her and can see (ultimately) what needs to be done. I enjoyed the whole series. I even understand why some people did not like the book, but I understand the motives, even though I didn't see it coming. It's something different and to be experienced.

Then, I started thinking about other stories with extremely flawed characters that I have read or watching,
some I have mentioned above.
*Harry Potter, the boy who live, he is also very flawed and yet still comes out of top and the story is pretty freaking great too!
*There's the Unicorn, from Peter S. Beagle's "The Last Unicorn" a shy and naive unicorn that goes seeking others of her kind. She is transformed in something mortal, learns to love, and now regrets. A stellar story and one, you, Dear Readers should read, or re-read or re-re-read.
*There's Macbeth, the tortured Thane of Glamis, who kills and lies, only to end up beheaded at the end. A less happy ending, but not all story have happy endings. Shakespeare, was very masterful at creating a world of tragedy; where flawed characters ran amok through England or Scotland. Macbeth is one of the most flawed characters in literature, so much so that by the end of the play pretty much all are dead. But it beg the question, why do we love these wed characters?

Speaking for myself, I can connected to a character when I know what they are experiencing. The real emotions of a betrayal, the loss of love, death. These things are real, even if the circumstances are not even close to that which we live and breath on a day to day basis. Just knowing that Katniss suffers loss, so much so that it blind her to the world around her. That is a VERY real thing. There are people who have experienced that, still do. Those are the things that connected us to characters in books, movies, TV show and when done well often helps us to understand our own world. When you meet someone who has been hurt by a close friend, has felt betrayed, and has trouble building trust, for example. You suddenly have a chance to build a friendship and maybe, just maybe find your own healing in that friendship. I know I have experienced that same thing as mentioned above and have learned to put my trust issues aside, because I found someone who experienced something similar and together we helped sort out feelings and thoughts. That, ironically, led to helping yet another friend to work through some trust issues. It's not always a guarantee, but often by finding these connections, we can find out solutions.

So, Dear Readers, what stories do you find therapeutic in nature, what stories draw you in. Maybe a favourite flawed character? Favourite book/TV series featuring a flawed character(s)? Leave me some LOVE below. I hope you enjoyed my little foray into flawed characters and what makes them fascinating.

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