Thursday, February 5, 2015

Perils of the Writer: Embracing Your Characters' Flaws

Perfect characters who get everything right are no fun. Heroes that are worth reading are ones who can screw up royally.  Now, of course, you can write them just getting unlucky, or being overpowered, but the most interesting mistakes are the ones that come the core of the character. 
Take, for example, the two protagonists of my upcoming A Murder of Mages.  Satrine Rainey and Minox Welling are both heroes with a lot of problems.  Right from the first line of the book, we know that Satrine is a liar.  She's lying and faking her way into a job she hasn't earned.  She hates that she has to do it, but it's the only choice she has to make the money she needs to support her family after her husband suffers a horrible injury.  So she lies, she forges documents, does whatever she has to-- and she knows she can do it very well, which is the part that makes her angriest of all. 
Minox has his own problems.  He's a brilliant inspector, but his colleagues don't like him and don't trust... in no small part to him being an Uncircled mage.  He has the ability to do magic, but no training-- it's all self-taught, raw, unfocused, and dangerous.  He felt that was his only choice: being in a Mage Circle would prevent him from being a constabulary officer.  For a man whose father, grandfather, grandmother-- not to mention aunts, uncles and cousins-- have all served the city in the Constabulary, not wearing the Red and Green wasn't even an option. 
Satrine and Minox are both very good at their job, but they've also got a huge blind spot to their own weaknesses.  And that's going to get them into trouble.

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