Monday, August 2, 2010

10 Tips for Non-Perfection

Every writer falls in love with their characters. We love them. They may irritate us from time to time, but we love them. Here are some tips to make sure that love hasn't got you viewing your creations through rose-coloured glasses:

They say the wrong thing which causes hurt feelings or misunderstandings.

They have a physical flaw (even if it's only noticeable to them).

They're not a stereotype. (harder to realize than you'd think)

They're not successful at every venture.

They react uniquely to each situation you throw at them.

You've given them something to overcome (could be small, could be huge, but there's something).

There's something about each character that drives you a wee bit batty.

They don't remind you of any character you've ever read. (be honest)

Their egos make them make mistakes.

Unless you've written Satan's evil twin Skippy, (and maybe even then) each of them has at least one redeeming quality.


  1. Excellent post. When we love our characters, it's hard not to make them perfect- even if it's perfect at being bad! Thank you!


  2. There's a lot here I need to work on. Thanks. I think.

  3. great tips - I especially like that last one...pure evil is like pure good - borrrrrring!

  4. AICL; Thanks - it's a trap I think many of us fall into.

    Carol; You're welcome. I think.

    Karen; I hope you find them useful.

    Jan; It is boring, isn't it? I try to make even my most dislikable character likable in a small way.

  5. Wonderful list! You've laid it out in a way that one can use checklist-style.

  6. I love the concise way you get the points across. I hope all writers take note. Following your advice will help make characters real and that is what readers relate to.

  7. Laura; I hope you find it useful. It helped me just writing it!

    Maryann; What a kind thing to say - thank you! It was just what I needed to hear today.

  8. Perfect people are irritating! Great tips for making our characters flawed. :)

  9. This is helping me already. Thanks for the tips!

  10. Elspeth - What great ideas!! I need to post this list by my 'puter. Might I also add... they aren't always aware of their own faults and foibles, especially if it's a series. Can we say "character evolution" please?

  11. Great post with lots of great tips. As usual, outstanding!


  12. Elizabeth; Coming from you, that is high praise indeed.

    Laura; I'm so pleased to hear it. Good luck!

    Margot; YES!! Character evolution...sometimes slow, but always there.

    Clarissa; You're very kind. Thanks.

  13. You've got to peel away the layers. Sometimes there are surprises along the way.

  14. Rose-colored glasses – what a perfect illustration for the post! All very valid points, but I really liked, “There's something about each character that drives you a wee bit batty.”

  15. I think the last one is absolutely vital. No matter how horrible your character is sometimes, they must have a redeeming quality.
    Fantastic list.

  16. Those are really good points to keep in mind to prevent us from creating in our literature an evil monster or a perfect angel, neither of which is human. Thank you for suggestions that if heeded will make excellence in our craft more attainable. Thank you for sharing.

  17. This is a fabulous list, Elspeth! I by far prefer nuanced characters to any that are too good or too bad. I love the wee bit batty thought!

  18. I like the "react uniquely" comment, because it can be used to show how the character is changing over the course of your story. If they keep making the same mistakes in the beginning half of your story, but then react differently to the same situation later on, it shows that that character has grown.

    Very nice post.


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