Girls are NOT sugar and spice

I wrote a blog a while ago about character flaws.  Something I don’t think about much.  I think of strengths and weaknesses–what are you good at, prone to, and what do you have to work at, try to avoid?  But maybe your weaknesses would be your flaws?  Or maybe your flaws are the things you want, but shouldn’t have?  The things you give in to?  Your temptations?  The bad choices you WANT to make and try to avoid?  Any opinions?  When you think of a character, how do you see him?  What do you consider his/her flaw?  I’d love to hear about a character you wrote and what his/her flaw was, how it affected your book.

I was thinking about a character that Julia Donner wrote in her Friendship Regency series. In the book Lord Carnall and Miss Innocent–an exaggeration of their personalities, but a fun one–Donner introduced two characters who sometimes care TOO much.  Can that be a flaw?  Is too much of a good thing a flaw?  Lord Carnall will move mountains to help his two, younger sisters.  That’s why he enrolls them in the private school run by Ana Worth.  And Ana?  She’s trying to keep her selfish, absorbed brother free from scandal, at the risk of going bankrupt herself.  On the surface, both characters have noble goals, and self-sacrifice CAN be a good thing, but when is enough–enough?  And when Donner wrote these two, awesomely wonderful people, did she consider the things that made me love them to also be their flaws?  When you start writing a book, do you list each character’s flaw?  Does that help you?

In Donner’s book, Ana is a deeply caring and giving person, but she is NOT sugar and spice.  I can’t think of any woman in literature who is.  Not even children, if the author portrays them realistically.  I have two daughters, and neither of them were the dolls and tea party type girls.  I bought them Barbies for their birthdays, and they painted them with red paint (for blood dripping down them) and hung them from the basement rafters to make a Halloween haunted house.  I was pretty impressed, but then, I wasn’t very girly myself as a kid.

Most characters, if readers are supposed to empathize with them, have strengths and convictions and care about something enough to struggle hard to achieve it.  And since books thrive on conflict, something always stands in their way–sometimes that something is their own flaws.  Usually, characters have to grow to solve their problems.  Sucky, right?  But pretty true to life.  No one gets off easy in fiction…male or female.  So, who is one of your favorite characters in fiction?  And what do you see as his/her flaw?  And if you’re a writer, do you think the flaw you chose for your character is the flaw readers see when they read your book?

I’d love comments and feedback.  And since it’s getting cold and ugly outside, hope you can hibernate a little more, and happy writing or reading!

Link for Lord Carnall and Miss Innocent:

My author Facebook page:

My webpage (with a snippet):

On twitter:  @judypost


What’s Wrong With Fluff?

I just finished reading two romances by two different authors, and each of them had protagonists who were dealing with some serious crap.  In Nora Roberts’s Whiskey Beach, the female protagonist had moved to Whiskey Beach after barely surviving a stalker boyfriend who nearly killed her.  The love interest–Eli–whom I seriously loved–had been accused of his wife’s murder since they were in the middle of a nasty divorce and had publicly argued the same day she was killed.  Heavy stuff.  The guy moved to Whiskey Beach, too, and someone followed him, so a good, solid mystery was thrown into the mix.

After Nora Roberts, I bought Stacy Finz’s romance, Finding Hope.   I should admit here that I did this partly for selfish reasons.  Stacy Finz is selling lots of books on Lyrical Press–my publisher.  And she’s one of the few authors I’ve seen who had 73 five-star reviews, period.  Nothing lower than five stars.  I mean, that’s almost like a miracle, in my opinion. So I wanted to see what she did.  And what she did is damn good.  She gave both of her characters BIG baggage.  The female protagonist was happily married to a wonderful man, whom I’m happy to say STAYED a wonderful man, so that Finz defied the stereotypes, but their six-year-old daughter was snatched from their backyard, and four years later, no one has ever found her, dead or alive.  Every mother’s nightmare.  (Father’s, too, but I’m talking about the lead character here).  She stays in her house, hoping her daughter will find her way home sometime, but after four years, the stress and memories destroy their marriage and get to her, so she leaves to move to Nugget, California, where she meets Clay, whose wife was cheating on him, drank too much, and wrapped her car around a tree.  He’s left to raise two boys who miss their mom and partially blame him for her death. More heavy stuff.  And I loved it.  The town, the people, the characters all came to life in this book.

But now . . . now I’m ready to read something lighter.  I’m not one of those readers who consume more and more of the same kind of book.  I love urban fantasy when I want good vs. evil and big battles, life or death duels.  I read mysteries when I want my little grey cells to strain harder than usual.  And once in a while, I want some lightweight fluff.  Now I’m not talking 30 minute sitcom light here.  No canned laughter at the end of each scene.  But sometimes I just want interesting characters who think they’ve got their lives flowing pretty well until they bump into each other and realize they might want more.

I’m writing my sixth Mill Pond romance right now and read the first chapter at Scribes, my writing group that I can’t praise enough.  I got good feedback, but two members asked me, “What’s the love interest’s flaw?”  Because he comes off as too good, too nice in that chapter.  (And the female has enough flaws, possibly, for both of them).  And I had to stop to really think about that.  Because I never define my characters by their flaws. I never define anyone that way.  I tend to look at people and see their potential, the things that I like, until I’m forced to confront the things that might annoy me.

I, personally, think every person on this earth has goals and dreams and things that keep us from reaching them, and that’s how I define my characters.  What does he/she want?  What gets in his/her way?  And how does he/she deal with it?  Flaws?  Oh, hell, we all have plenty of them, but that doesn’t help me wrap my head around a character unless he’s a minor character, where I just list the obvious.  Like Axel, in book six, who’s a mean, old coot who lives to annoy people.  And baggage?  If we’re older than two, we probably have enough of that, too.  But it doesn’t always have to be so heavy, we can hardly carry it. Some of my favorite characters are just good people who want something and can’t figure out how to get it.  Their books are just fun reads, but I need fun reads once in a while.  I crave something that makes me feel warm and happy, and that’s why I write Mill Pond romances.