Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I need a backbone

Anyone familiar with much of my work will know my characters are almost always heavily flawed. Some people have come out and said they don't like them because they're not 'nice' enough. My problem? I want to write even darker more flawed characters in darker stories. I've set out to do it a couple of times, but each time I go soft and pull back. My characters turn out flawed, but not as hard as I wanted originally.

I have no one to blame but myself. I rush to get my rawest, often unfinished first draft into the hands of my beta readers, then I let their comments influence where the story goes. It's certainly not their fault. They're doing exactly what I have asked them to do. I need to stop asking it. Instead, I need to wait until the draft has gone through some polish before asking others to look at it.

Ultimately, I need to grow a set and start trusting my own judgment. I have 9 novels published, with a few others in the chute. Isn't it time I trusted myself? Write my story the way I want it written? Let it stand or fall once it's done, not water it down during the first draft because my own doubts leave me unsure of my ability to finish such a book with a strong, if unpopular ending.

In one novel, I waffled and eventually softened my main protagonist's rough edges. I made him nicer. I put him safely back in his flawed hero-with-a-heart-of-gold instead of the truly flawed character who screws up at the end, whose flaws lead to tragedy.

So how about you? Have you ever pulled back from where you wanted to go with a character or storyline because you were told it was too unlikable? The character too nasty?


  1. Well I haven't gotten anything published yet so I am green with envy of you.

    My book is a Christian mystery and one agent told me that Christians never make mistakes and I couldn't have my main charachter actually have flaws--which made me gag. And that is why I rarely read Christian fiction. It's so syrupy sweet I can't stomach it. And I'm a pastor's wife for Pete's sake.

    So I continue on and hopefully will find an agent that will consider flawed characters.

  2. Great post. Really hit home with me. I've written a couple of Christian novels too, Carole. In one of mine, the main character lies through the entire book to save herself and the nephew she's raising. An agent and several contest judges told me Christians don't lie. Uhhhhhh, okay. :) To make it worse, they're totally ignoring the fact that she isn't a Christian...until the end of the book.

    This post makes me realize I've let comments totally block me and cause me NOT to move forward in my writing. I'm reading some really good secular stuff. And learning a lot. And the characters are good, bad, ugly, they lie, they pray, they manipulate... they're human!:)\
    Thanks for the really good post. Made me think. :)