Are you flawed? Cracked? A bit off in the head? Plagued by inner demons?
Don’t answer that.
I am. I’m not a homicidal maniac or anything (not that I would admit it if I were), but I have flaws. However, my flaws aren’t interesting. Not to me, not to you…Well, maybe to you if one of my flaws happens to rub you the wrong way. My point is no one is going to write a book about my flaws.
Other than me, that is.
If I accept the premise of my last few posts that some of me will – and should – show up somewhere in my writing, then some of my flaws have to show up, too. Scary thought.
I don’t mean to imply that every flaw of every character is exactly one of mine. But flaws, whatever they are, tend to sprout from the same fallen place inside each of us. No matter what particular plant grows up, the soil from which it springs is common to all. For example, pride expresses itself in all kinds of ways, and each way can make an interesting plot complication.
I love writing about flawed characters. A character who struggles not only against an external dilemma but must do so while wrestling with himself is so much more interesting, don’t you think?
Look at Frodo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings. Would we care as much about Frodo’s quest to destroy the One Ring if we didn’t know while all the evil in the world is bent on destroying him, he is struggling against his own growing, obsessive desire to keep it for himself?
Okay, maybe we would, but maybe not. Our hero’s battle against himself as well as the world makes him even more heroic. Provided he wins.
You know the trouble with Superman? When you create a guy who’s invincible, what do you then write about him? He can do anything and no one can stop him. That’s not interesting. So you give him Kryptonite, the more kinds the better, and some enemies who match him in strength but not Boy-Scouty-ness, and you’ve got a story. Otherwise, you’ve got the news, except instead of the police, firemen, and emergency personnel saving the day, you’ve got Superman. As Christopher Walken would say…Yawn.
So hats off to all the flawed heroes who fight not only external monsters but inner demons.
After presenting the idea that character flaws originate with us, I’ll ask a far scarier question. Who are your favorite flawed heroes and why?
Don’t worry. No judgments here. We’re all a bit cracked, no matter how hard we try to deny it.
Hmm. Maybe I should have picked a Valentine’s Day theme. ‘Course, I forgot it was Valentine’s Day…
Michael Corleone, though I admit it can be argued that he’s a villain, not a hero. But I prefer to think of him as an extremely flawed hero. He is his own greatest enemy. He doesn’t want to be like his father, Vito, but he ends up being worse than Vito. His tragic flaw is his inability to forgive, which makes him unable to let things go (and, thus, unable to get out of the family business, no matter how much he wants to). He seeks redemption, but he can never seem to grasp it, and the more he tries to hold onto his family with this flaw, the more he loses them until he’s utterly alone.
I love Michael, possibly because he does make such a fabulously tragic character. I do wish he could have found peace at the end.
I have noticed a tendency to create “super” heroes with flaws.
In my youth, I role-played a superheroes game where my character had so many flaws, the gamemaster kept giving me abilities to off-set them. I ended up with a hyper-sensitive, bipolar, split personality berserker with super-human reflexes and luck who would fall into a coma after 8 rounds of fighting. hehe!
For the non-nerd readers, the above paragraph made no sense. My apologies. For the nerds, it was based on the Marvel Comics Super Hero game book.
Even in my youth, I loved flaws.
I didn’t even have to know which game it was from to enjoy the description. Having played enough games over the years, it made perfect sense to me. 😉
“I speak fluent crazy” Tim from X-Men 2099
I think my favourite flawed hero has to be Chief Martin Brody from Jaws. He also has my vote for one of the most quotable lines in a film: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
I liked him because he always tried to do the right thing, even when it put his career in jeopardy and in spite of his weaknesses. He overcame his fear of water to join the mildly crazy Quint in the hunt for the shark.
My absolute favorite was Captain Malcolm Reynolds of the TV series “Firefly” (and movie “Serenity”). Though it would take some major deliverance services to exorcise his demons, he retained a deeply-rooted compassion for others. So lovable.