Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the newly released The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.
Often we talk about how characters shouldn't be perfect, how they should have flaws. While I think this is true, I think it can also be a bit confusing. Because sometimes assigning flaws to a character can create a trait that's too superficial (she doesn't put the cap back on the family tube of toothpaste) and other times the flaws are so abrasive, the character becomes too hard to like.
So instead of talking about flaws, let's try talking about brokenness.
How is your character broken?
All people have brokenness in their lives, and characters should too.
In The Hunger Games, Katniss is broken in that her father died unexpectedly and she's had to take care of her family ever since. This is something in her life that has broken her, that she's had to rebuild from.
In Delirium by Lauren Oliver, Lena is broken by having a mother who, she believes, chose suicide over her. In Captives, by Jill Williamson, Omar is broken in that his father has never approved of him. In my book, The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet, Ellie is broken in that she's always been overshadowed by her best friend and older brother.
And these broken places lead the character's to act in ways that might be labelled as flaws - Katniss tends to be callous, Lena conforms to society out of fear of getting "infected" and ending up like her mother, Omar's desire for approval has tragic consequences, and Ellie allows others to walk all over her because she lacks a sense of self-worth.
How is your character beautiful?
While the brokenness of a character is vital to endearing a reader, so is their beauty. Katniss's inner strength is beautiful, as is Lena putting aside fear to embrace love.
Cinderella and Rapunzel are beautiful in how they sing and do good for others, despite living in abusive homes.
What about your main character? How is he or she broken? Beautiful? And try this exercise on your villain or primary antagonist as well!
Also, yesterday I had the privilege of guest posting on the MacGregor Literary agency site. I talked about how I fell in love with blogging, and why I feel Go Teen Writers has grown the way it has. It was a rather scary post to write, since the MacGregor Literary blog is one of my favorite writing sites ever, so if you want to come say hello to me over there, I would appreciate it!