Heroes and Heroines: Can They Ever Be Too Perfect?

 

I don’t hang around with perfect people.

I’m sure you’re all very nice. I mean, you’re perfect, after all. And that’s the problem.

I’m not perfect.

I have a serious sugar addiction. (Jelly beans, anyone?)

I skip my workouts.

I prefer to “pile” rather than file my papers.

My children will tell you that, um, sometimes I raise my voice above a whisper. Sometimes.

Me and perfection–we’ve got nothing in common.

My aversion to perfect people crosses over to the novels I read–and the heroes and heroines I meet in those fictional worlds. I understand that, by definition, a hero (or heroine) must be heroic. But this doesn’t mean he has to be perfect.

Do all the leading men in romances have to be tall, dark and handsome? Or perhaps cut from the hunky blonde surfer mold? Do all the women have to be petite, fragile beauties with sky-blue eyes and blonde hair? Or raven-hair beauties with smoldering dark eyes?

Here’s an interesting point to ponder: I’ve read a lot of romances through the years. Two characters stand out from those hundreds of novels:

  1. The average height hero who had a chipped front tooth.
  2. The heroine who had a weight problem. Not just an extra-1o-pounds-problem — a serious issue with being h-e-a-v-y.

I think most readers want heroes and heroines to struggle, to grow, to become different people … better people as a story progresses. They want characters to move from emotionally and spiritually imperfect people to … better people.

Still imperfect. But better.

The question is: Why do we feel like we have to wrap these imperfect characters up in perfect faces and bodies?

In Your Words: Do you think characters are ever too perfect? Or would you rather avoid too much realism when you’re reading a novel? Do you want a fairy tale hero and heroine — no physical flaws?

photo by cinezi/stockxchng.com
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10 Comments

  1. October 18, 2011, 6:30 am   /  Reply

    To me, the true fairy tale is having someone who knows your flaws and loves you anyway. That’s what real romance is all about. Only the Perfect One can claim to be faultless.

    When I created my character Stephen from Lakeside Reunion, he was too perfect. He needs some flaws, so I gave him a big one that impacted the rest of his life. For me, he was immediately more likable and not so distant.

    • Beth Vogt
      October 18, 2011, 6:45 am   /  Reply

      Good insight, Lisa. I like how you said flaws make people less distant — more approachable. True in real life too. 🙂

  2. Jeanne T
    October 18, 2011, 7:12 am   /  Reply

    Great post, Beth. I wonder if some writers’ propensities to create flawless characters is because people are so imperfect. Just thinking out loud. 🙂

    Personally, I like to see characters with flaws, but not so many flaws that I can’t be drawn to him/her in the story. They need to have characteristics I can like too. 🙂 I like reading stories where people grow, change and become better people. Characters who are “real” are the ones I most enjoy reading about.

    • Beth Vogt
      October 18, 2011, 7:26 am   /  Reply

      Here’s another thought: I’ve heard of author’s being told their characters are too imperfect … that editors or critique group members don’t like them at all. So, finding that balance between too perfect and completely unsympathetic … that’s tough.

  3. October 18, 2011, 7:30 am   /  Reply

    I love this post. It’s a definite keeper & explains why you’re close friends w/ some of us. It’s a good thing you’re not looking for perfection, and we love you back.

    • Beth Vogt
      October 18, 2011, 7:47 am   /  Reply

      🙂

  4. October 18, 2011, 7:42 am   /  Reply

    Ahhh…imperfection. Can’t we all relate? It’s too much work trying to maintain the impossible perfect exterior.

    • Beth Vogt
      October 18, 2011, 7:48 am   /  Reply

      Well, I know I certainly tried to maintain that standard for too long.
      Then I embraced grace instead.
      That’s one of the spiritual truths I like to weave through my stories: grace.

  5. October 18, 2011, 8:41 am   /  Reply

    This is a GREAT post, Beth! I’m with you…I have quit reading books in the past where either the hero or heroine felt too perfect. I do think we do read fiction, in some ways, for escape – so an extra cute hero or a really witty heroine can be a lot of fun. But when they do no wrong or (as your photo implies) have the unrealistic Barbie thing going on, I just can’t hack it. Mostly, because I can’t relate! 🙂

    However, I’ve also been guilty of the other side – packing so many flaws into my characters they’re a psychiatrist’s dream. I mean, dude, the heroine and hero need reasons to like each other – both internal and, yes, external. So, like you said above, there’s got to be balance. I haven’t started using it yet, but I have a feeling Susie’s “Kiss and Tell” book will have some great tips for that.

    • Beth Vogt
      October 18, 2011, 8:54 am   /  Reply

      I have Susie’s book, Kiss and Tell … need to read it too!

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