Tall, Dark and Handsome–What’s Wrong with That? by Cassiel Knight

Is there a problem with rich and perfect characters?

One of my favorite sites to visit is Mrs. Giggles.com. She reviews books, movies, game books and more. Her reviews are her honest opinion and she doesn’t pull punches. If she doesn’t like something, she’ll tell you and why. With the books I’ve read that she has (same with movies), I don’t always agree with her simply because her reason to read or watch often seems to be different from mine; however, overall, our interests match. And I love that she reads and watches eclectically–not just a focus on one genre or a particular aspect of a genre. Like me, she reads and watches what interest her and that can cross the gamut of subjects.

Now, this isn’t an endorsement of the site; I’m getting nothing by singing its praises. I just wanted to tell you a little about it because the one thing I completely disagree with her on is rich and perfect characters.

She doesn’t like them and many of her reviews are very clear as to her view of perfect people. However, I love perfect characters.

I have to ask–what’s wrong with perfect characters? We write and read fiction, after all. I read fiction for escape. I want to read about ‘perfect’ characters living their ‘perfect’ lives even if they have to struggle to get those ‘perfect’ lives.

There are tons of articles on writing the imperfect character and dismiss perfect characters as one-dimensional, flat and paper cutouts. They’ve achieved perfection so there’s no need for further improvement. They are the tall, dark and handsome man who stands on the side of right or the beautiful woman with flawless complexion, stunning shape all men love.

Writers are told to give characters flaws to make them more interesting so they suggest making your characters overweight, too tall, too short, with frizzy hair or they are cowboy-hunk-hunks-10332410-1024-768pushy, obsessive, workaholics, rigid, makes excuses, etc. I find those fine secondary characters but I don’t want to read out people I experience in my real life.

So, what’s wrong with the superhero? Or the woman who gives tirelessly and is beautiful? Why shouldn’t I want to read about people like this? Why should these types of characters be dismissed? I’m told they don’t exist in real life. Big deal. I can live with that because I don’t want to read about real life. The fiction I read and write is about escape. If I want flawed characters, all I have to do is pick up a newspaper or go out, any time, into the public. That’s not what I want from my fiction. I want, need and crave characters who are handsome, beautiful and overcome all obstacles with perfect skill and abilities to achieve lives we all dream of. They work and play hard but look great doing it.

How about you? I believe perfect characters also mean different things to different people–writers and readers and I also believe it depends on why you read–the kind of experience you want from your fiction. I’m really curious. I don’t think I’m the only one who enjoys reading about handsome, beautiful and rich characters.

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Posted on May 23, 2013, in General and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Great topic! Like Maggie, I can’t identify with perfect characters. Even when reading fiction to escape, I want to know that imperfect people can overcome obstacles and get a life that suits them, even if it’s not perfect … it’s perfect for them. It’s all about perspective, I guess. One of my favorite series is about an assassin, with her own code of conduct (Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassin series, to be specific :-)). Gin Blanco is flawed and makes mistakes, but in the end, this “anti-hero” wins.

    Of course, T,D&H will always make me swoon just a little bit, especially when he shows he accepts the flawed heroine just as she is, rather than a “perfect” woman. Perfection is a fallacy, nothing is really perfect and someone can always pick it apart and find a flaw. Sometimes we miss the fun in life, striving for perfection. Sorry, showing my pet-peeve a little.

    Happy writing 🙂

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    • Does perfection mean a character never makes mistakes? That’s a good point. Maybe it’s about the level of perfection. I like them up until the point where they might walk on water. 🙂 But see, when I read fiction, I’m good with perfection where I’m not in real life. To me, fiction is NOT real life so, to me, perfection works there. But perfection in real life? Not only do I think it’s impossible to achieve, as you note, it’s a fallacy because perfection means different things to each of us. My perfect weekend is spent at the beach with my writer friends. Others may find that boring. 🙂

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  2. Great observation and question, Cassiel. Hero’s will always “seem” perfect, cause we love our fantasy men hunky. I want to read about the hunky guy, and smart, confident woman who figure out how to get around the roadblocks. If some of those roadblocks are internal struggles, the more I like it. And I love it when the story takes me far from the reality of my day job dominated reality.

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    • That’s a good observation, too, Susan. We like our heroes perfect, right? So why can’t we enjoy a perfect woman? I know, like Maggie said, readers will put themselves in the heroines place but I’ve never done that. When I experience a story, I’m experiencing the action, adventure — the plot, not the growth of the character. Odd, isn’t it? 🙂

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  3. Maggie Jaimeson

    You are right. It depends on why you read. I definitely read Romance for the Happily Ever After. For me, if the characters are too perfect or too beautiful, I don’t enjoy it as much because I like to picture myself as the heroine. (Yes, it’s getting to be more and more a stretch).

    If the heroine has something I can identify with it makes it more enjoyable to me. Sure she can be beautiful, but she has to grow during the novel. She has to learn something–and perhaps something that I need to learn or I can remember how hard it was for me to learn. In terms of the hero, certainly he can be gorgeous. But if he is always right, always fit, always the best lover, always the savior again I don’t identify with it. I want to make some kind of possibility in my head that I could meet this guy in some future time/world.

    Fantasies are funny things. For me, the fantasy is to believe–for even a moment–that it might come true (kind of like winning the lottery). Too perfect or too beautiful has no chance for me because it is too far from any “realistic” fantasy.

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    • Hmm. I’m not even sure I need a character to change. Well, a perfect character that is. For example, Mia in Blood on the Moon is pretty darn perfect. Others might not see her that way but I’ve made her lovely, strong, wealthy and capable. Readers like her because of all those things. What I did with her was make her too capable and strong at times – where the hero is concerned. Maybe that changes her from a perfect character to a flawed one. This also makes me remember the fact that I’m a plot driven author and obviously, a plot driven reader since I’m much more about the story than the characters. Isn’t this why there’s so much out there that can appeal to all of us?

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