Beautifully Flawed

When I write fiction, my characters tend to be messed up.  Truth be told, that’s how I prefer it.  Characters that represent only the most idealized of ideals make me wanna holler! I want someone I can relate to, someone I can cheer for when they overcome obstacles, someone I love to hate.

Flawed characters permeate the literary landscape, but what about the opposite? As far as the Young Adult world goes, the characters that most embody unrealistic perfection for me are Francine Pascal’s icons of All-American Virgitude, Sweet Valley High’s Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield.

Practically Perfect in Every Way

Don’t get me wrong, I religiously devoured those books and am ragingly jealous in awe of Pascal’s sun-kissed empire, but her depictions of the Twins Wakefield bordered on the incredulous:  Five feet six inches tall, shoulder-length blonde hair, blue-green eyes, “perfect” size six figures (which has since changed to size four for today’s target audience), effortlessly Mensa-smart, super charming with amazing parents and a sensitive, hottie brother.  Blah blah blah, bore bore bore.  Even when their “flaws” are revealed, they are more along the lines of being too nice and beautiful to live.

Porn Stache = Trouble

As a reader, I willingly suspended my disbelief for the sake of soapy goodness but rarely identified with the twins’ existence.  The series annoyingly pushes the really compelling stuff–drug abuse, premarital sex, family strife–through a revolving door of throwaway characters, but that’s where I saw myself: with the misfits, outcasts and poor little rich girls.

Let’s face it, anyone who tells you the world’s black and white is conducting the crazy train.   We live in a confusing conflagration of messy, muddled gray.  Because the path isn’t Yellow-Brick-Road defined, we encounter challenges, make poor choices (sometimes repeatedly), are influenced by the wrong people and cause what feels like irreparable harm to ourselves.

Sometimes we come out on the other side, whole healthy and happy, and sometimes we don’t.  But the journey is what makes us legendary and I’ll gladly hitch myself to any character who painfully endures so that I may learn a lesson or two.

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11 thoughts on “Beautifully Flawed”

  1. I never read the books…I only watch the TV show version. That’s a lie. I did read the Sweet Valley University series. Anyway, the TV show must have been a bit different because Jessica was always nasty (but still gorgeous). I was obsessed with the Daniels twins.

    And Trix, they’re 5’7″ and 5’8″ in real life…that’s a little better, right? No? Okay.

    I really don’t mind good-girls; I am one. Sure, I don’t want to read about Mary who always gets straight As, looks like a supermodel, and plays Bingo at the old folks home every week; but at the same turn, I don’t want to read about Millie who’s screwing the soccer team and popping out babies left and right and her parents are drug addicts and her uncle is a millionaire who won’t help them out because Millie’s father stole his lighter back in eigth grade. You know what I mean?

    I don’t want super good and I don’t want completely unreasonable. I just want normal people. But, then, I guess normal might be too boring.

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    1. Jessica was nasty and conniving in the books too, but it was spun as, “Oh it’s just Jessica” and rarely was there a lasting consequence for her actions. Sure, you can ruin reputations and try to steal boyfriends and commit misdemeanors, but you won’t have to suffer for it because you’re cute.

      You’re right, as someone who walked the tight-rope between goody-goody and bad-girl, some balance is definitely required. It’s challenging to write a not-so-nice character with no redeeming qualities because your instinct is to make something likeable about them, but those people do exist in the world. And then there’s characters who appear bad–like one of my favorites, Severus Snape–but may have ulterior motives at play. I find the entire dynamic fascinating!

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  2. I remember reading these books, yet I don’t remember a thing about them anymore. Sounds like that is probably a good thing.

    I agree that flawed characters are the best characters. They have depth, and their weaknesses can draw us in closer in a way that perfection never will. There’s a reason Stepford Wives are looked at with fear and mistrust. Otherwise, it would be a movie/book about utopia, right?

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  3. Man, those twins did all sorts of damage to my self-esteem when I was younger. Too tall, too brunette, too average, etc. Just seeing that pic makes me shudder. But yes, the porn stache is HILARIOUS!

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