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I Hate You

Okay. I bet the second you read my blog title an ex-significant other popped into your mind and you’re recalling what it was about him or her that caused conflict between the two of you and ended the bond.  Think back to the turning point in your relationship.

Was it something he did or didn’t do?

While eating out, did he/she always pick at the dinner you ordered because he decided yours looked or tasted better than the dinner he ordered?

Did he/she always leave the television on when leaving the house or apartment?

Did he/she never wash or clean out his car? And was happy to have a backseat filled with garbage?

Did they constantly make promises and always had an excuse for not keeping them?

Or was it something he/she said?

Like beginning every sentence with “Hummm”

Or “I told you to…”

Did he/she never let you finish your sentence?

Or did it seem the relationship was all about them?

You always went out with his/her friends but not with yours?

You attended all of his ball games but he/she always found an excuse to miss your book signings.

She/He always wants sex with the lights off and never in the afternoon.

Or were there outside influences that strained the relationship?

He/she hated your dog, or cat.

Her/his family always had to be consulted concerning decisions that should be made by the two of you. Or the family interfered on their own.

His/her job took priority over everything.

Maybe there was a habit at first you thought was kind of cute but then it became really annoying.

He called every one of his buddies MAN.

While in the shower, he sang his version of We Are The Champions, inserting I am instead of we are.

He always swiped a cookie or veggie from the tray you just finished making for a party.

He always wore the same ratty shirt on the weekends.

I’m sure many of you could add more really great examples.

My point in listing all these examples is that they are character flaws and by giving your characters a flaw, your reader will connect with them and identify with your hero or heroine’s reaction. And that is what you want as a writer—a connection with the reader.

Perfect characters are boring characters.

Think about your favorite sitcom. One of mine is Everybody Loves Raymond.  Every character in that show is memorable. All have huge flaws.

Raymond, of course, is lazy when it comes to helping with the children and around the house. He loves golf and sex and would do about anything to have more time doing both, including telling his white lies.

Deborah, his wife, her flaw in my book, is she puts up with Raymond. But she can also be admired for sticking it out with the guy.

Robert, Raymond’s older, much taller brother, is insecurity about being second in line to his baby brother. And he has this freakish way of touching his chin when eating.

And Marie and Frank, Ray’s parents… well there isn’t enough room on this blog to list all of their faults.

The only characters who seem perfect are Ray’s and Deborah’s three children.  GRIN. Kids are always perfect!

In my 2009 Golden Heart entry, Evil’s Witness now titled His Witness To Evil, my hero, John, a FBI agent, is very curt. He is a loner with deep wounds. John wears a tiny rubber band around his ring finger and constantly snaps it. This works the heroine, Stephanie’s nerves. She is the target of a Mafia lord and under a lot of stress, so this little repeated action becomes the catalyst for her to express anger over her situation. It also does something else. When Steph blows her top and she presses John about it, she learns of his internal conflict. It reminds him of his daughter who was murdered out of revenge against him.

 

Now let’s go back to the lists above. I’m going to pick a few and show an example what conflict and emotion can be developed from the trait, flaw or habit.

A) Leaves the television on. Perfect internal conflict. Character was abandoned. Afraid to come home to an empty house.

B) Hmmm.. Heroine yells, “Hmmm. That is all you ever say to me. You never share what you’re thinking.”

Hero thinks, I really don’t want to do Thanksgiving at the grandfather’s house again, especially this year when it’s going to be the old man’s last.  I’ve lost enough this year.

C) Sex in the afternoon:

“I’ll get these reports to Mr. Gillings right away.” Marcy tapped the papers into a uniform pile, surprised Bill had agreed to all of her terms.

“You have time.” He stood and second later she heard the door lock clink.

“What are you doing?” Her nervous chuckle echoed off the walls of her office as he walked toward her. It was Saturday and there was no one in the building. “I told you, I’m not going to have sex with you.”

“If you want my support, you will.’”

Marcy’s heel landed home, in his nut patch.

How’s that for conflict?

I know you’re all avid readers. Do you have an example of a character with a flaw you’ve read you’d like to share?

 

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Autumn Jordon is an award-winning, sneaker wearing Ruby. You can join her newsletter at www.autumnjordon.com or follow her on Facebook and Tweeter.

17 responses to “I Hate You”

  1. jbrayweber says:

    I love how you broke down these little foibles. No one is perfect, of course, but these identifiable vices and kinks really hone in on characters. We all can relate.

    Wonderful post, Autumn.

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    • Thanks, Jenn. You know how important it is to get your readers to connect with every character, even the vile villain. It’s that connection that makes them remember the story long after they’ve finished it.

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  2. Julia Day says:

    I have a heroine in my WIP who is impulsive. That can be charming in some circumstances, but when you’re impulsive at the wrong time, it can be disastrous too. She ends up doing something on impulse that puts her stepsister into a bad situation. Later, when the heroine is apologizing to her stepfather, he says “Good intentions aren’t immune from bad consequences.”

    I love character flaws that can both good until they’re out of control–and then they’re bad.

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    • A great flaw. And I can certainly relate, because I’m a little impulsive myself and have gotten into trouble for it. LOL Trouble is my middle name btw.

      Thanks for sharing, Julia.

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  3. Great post and title, Autumn. Although, my first reaction wasn’t to think about ex’s I couldn’t stand. When I read the title, I immediately recalled how many romances I’ve read that were fabulous because the hero and heroine couldn’t stand each other in the beginning. Then through the course of the story, they gradually begin to see the other’s good points after learning the real reasons for all the things they hated about them in the beginning.

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    • Thanks, Laurie. Titles are the first hook, so I take it I did well.

      Interesting you brought up unlikable characters. We recently had this discussion in the chatroom during our morning sprints and our Hope Ramsey is planning to blog about this topic. For now, I’ll just say characters must change or the story is boring.

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    • Hope Ramsay says:

      I love the way Autumn twists arms. We did have a conversation about how reviewers often complain that characters are unlikable at the beginning of stories. And Autumn might have suggested this as a blog topic. And I might have agreed. I guess I’m on the hook now.

      But seriously, it is irksome when someone says that one of my characters isn’t likable at the beginning of a story. Well, duh! If my heroes and heroines weren’t jerks to start off with, what would they learn through the course of the story? Just sayin’

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  4. Darynda Jones says:

    Great examples, Autumn! I especially loved the motivation/explanation behind the flaws. THIS! This is what deep characters are all about.

    Fantastic post!

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    • Thank you, Darynda. I’m constantly pushed by some Rubies whose names I won’t mention to dig deep into my characters. The deeper we go the more chances we have of connecting with readers.

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  5. Heather D McCollum says:

    Great post, Autumn!
    I love delving into why my characters act a certain way. I do it in real life too – I call it giving the benefit of the doubt. People don’t typically wake up thinking “I’m going to be a jerk today.” Past burdens, guilt, baggage, fear, etc all play into how people react to events and one another. As a writer, it’s fun to create the past for a character to explain why he might walk around his dark castle at night or why she holds her breath every time she walks around a corner. : )

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    • Fun and important. Aspiring writers must realize the importance of creating your character’s past and know that 98% of it will never be put to page. Only the little bit of information that cuts to the bone is what is necessary to make the emotion bond with the reader.

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  6. Rita Henuber says:

    For me the character flaw subject is very complicated. I tend to use a simple chart that determines a character’s strongest trait then determine the flaw that would come from that trait. I also use the archetype cards that Hope Ramsey recommended. Recently I’ve been looking at character flaws from a different angle. I don’t know if I’m overthinking or making it more difficult on myself. The movie Hacksaw Ridge got me thinking. This real life hero wanted to serve his country in World War II but was a devout Seventh Day Adventist pacifist who refused to touch a weapon. He requested to serve as a corpsman. I recently watched the movie for a second time. The story as depicted doesn’t give Desmond Doss character flaws. Those around him thought he had a character flaw in that he was a coward. Is a man a coward because he refuses to pick up a weapon but instead, under heavy fire rescues and saves the lives of 75 men? I guess what I’m getting at is that character flaws can also be perceived. Or am I overthinking this and this doesn’t make sense?

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    • Interesting, Rita. I never thought at looking at the strongest trait and then seeing the flaws that can from it. I’m going to keep that in mind.

      Also, great example that other characters’ pov can evoke emotion for readers.

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  7. Such great examples and a good reminder that our flaws don’t have to be complicated. I was nodding my head at all of them. Thanks, Autumn!

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