(is-thay is pado-ay, y-may og-blay eries-say at-thay i’m ired-tay of troducing-inay. one ost-pay ery-evay ay-day or-fay the tire-enay onth-may of ober-octay.)
(I’m going to pretend like I actually know what I’m talking about today okay? Okay.)
As I’m sure you’ve heard a million times, a complex character is a good character. One of the ways that authors flesh out characters is by giving them flaws. But I’ve seen time and time again where a character’s flaws aren’t actually flaws. I’m hoping to shed some light on the subject of flawed characters with some examples and a lot of satire.
But are your characters’ flaws actual flaws?
For it to be a flaw, it has to actually have an effect. If your character has anger issues, they have to actually hurt friendships and make things difficult. Because is it really a flaw if it has no impact?
If you say that your character’s flaw is clumsiness, but all their clumsiness does is make them endearing, is that really a flaw? What about dropping the important object and breaking it? Tripping over a sleeping guard’s foot?
When you give your character flaws, make sure they actually have an impact.
(this post marks the halfway mark of apado – the only blog series that I know of that involves posting once a day for the entire month of october and chocolate-covered cactus fruit.)
(okay tess, let’s not rant about this little booger of a book. focus on the calming piano music. the sun’s getting real low.)
(with that in mind, we’re going to keep this brief)
Since I apparently have a knack for triggering people with my thoughts on critically acclaimed works, let’s talk about Great Expectations and everything I dislike about it everything it has taught me about storytelling.
If you like this book, I don’t mean you any offense. You’re totally allowed to like what you like and no one’s stopping you. In fact, I’d like to hear what it was that made this book worth it for you.
But for me?
I was done with it after about chapter four, but for some strange reason, I read the entire thing. Maybe it was a willpower issue.
At the end of everything, I thumped it closed, took a deep breath and said aloud – “I hated everyone and everything in that book and I’m so glad it’s over.” Of course, hate is a very strong word and I try to avoid overusing it…but this was not an overstatement.
There are a few reasons why I was so frustrated with it.
For starters, it’s very verbose. This is the least of its problems, but I kept on losing track of what I was reading because I was distracted by one of his incredibly long sentences. I read that the story was originally published in serial format – a little each week, paid by the word. It shows. The interruptions and rambling made me focus less on the actual story and more on his unorthodox way of saying things.
It also feels kind of creepy. In my opinion, the synopsis on the jacket doesn’t merit the spooky, crumbling-to-pieces setting and tone the book has. Everything is disturbed, off-kilter and missing the spark of vivacity and brightness that most classics have. I don’t like this feeling for the same reason that I don’t like Tim Burton – it creeps me out.
(Can we also talk about how Pip has this huge crush on Estella even though she treats him like a doormat and he knows it? I don’t think that’s flirtatious banter anymore, buddy. I think that’s abuse.)
Romance advice aside, though, the characters were the biggest problem in this story. I had to ponder as to why I was so indifferent toward them, seeing as one of the only good things about this book was the diverse cast. After a while, I finally cracked it.
I hated everything about this book because I didn’t care about any of the characters. Their goals, their ambitions, their expectations…all of it was lost on me because I couldn’t get over their whiny attitudes, intense revenge plots, and so on. There were barely any people in the book that I felt like I could stand behind, and this made everyone’s goals seem pointless.
I guess the thing with Great Expectations is (for me) that the cast fails to complete the goal of every character: to build a connection with the reader and get them hooked into the story. If no one cares about a character, they’re not going to care about their goals, the plot, or the point the novel is trying to make.
This is a really important point that I want to emphasize before I talk any more about character creation. The only way to keep a reader’s interest is to maintain that connection from the page to the real world.
Nothing is as important in storytelling as this.
tl;dr: I have to like your characters to care about your book.