A Perfect Grasp of Storytelling

I don’t know who started the whole “characters need flaws” concept of writing, but whoever it was did a disservice to the writing industry. People keep saying that perfect characters are boring, but the way I see it, there are no perfect characters, only writers with an imperfect grasp of storytelling.

A story begins when the normal world becomes unbalanced. In A Spark of Heavenly Fire, the normal world of Colorado became unbalanced when a deadly disease decimated the population. In More Deaths Than One, the normal world of the main character became unbalanced when he found out the mother he buried twenty years before is dead again. In Daughter Am I, the world of the main character became unbalanced when she learned that the grandparents she’d been told had died before she was born had just now been murdered. In Light Bringer, the world becomes unbalanced in a variety of ways, each POV character experiences his or her imbalance, and the nearing of an unknown planet literally unbalances the earth.

A story continues with the characters’ efforts to restore the balance. These efforts result in a worsening of the balance, either in a ripple effect of actions, such as when Jeremy King decided to do anything he could to leave Colorado in A Spark or Heavenly Fire or when everything the character learns deepens the mystery, such as Bob Stark’s search for himself in More Deaths Than One.

A story ends when the balance is restored, a new balance is attained, or the world remains out of kilter. My books all fall in the middle category — things never go back to where they were, but the characters and their world do establish a new balance.

Without this unbalance, there is no story, and within this unbalance, characters change.

Which brings me to the point I want to make about perfect character vs. imperfect understanding of storytelling.

If you create a perfect character — a gorgeous woman with a stunning figure, perfect hair, smart, successful, athletic, kind, talented, knows how to do everything, has no addictions — that is merely the beginning. It is what authors do with such a flawless character that shows their writing skills. For example, if the character always remains the same perfect character in balance with her world, it is not the character’s fault that her perfection is boring. It is the writer’s fault for not unbalancing the character’s world.

A gorgeous, intelligent woman who can do anything is only spectacular in the presence of lesser beings. What happens if she is thrown into a world of people exactly like her? What would she do to preserve her self-image of being extraordinary when all of a sudden she is ordinary? How would she reestablish the balance in her world? For example, a high school cheerleader/student body president/valedictorian goes to an ivy league university and discovers she is just one of many such achievers. Or a stunning and talented young woman enters a beauty pageant, expecting to win the crown and scholarship and a boost to her career, and finds out that she isn’t anything special. Or a perfect human being ends up in a robotic world of perfection. How would she prove that her perfection was natural, that she was a human and not a robot?

Sounds to me as if in the write hands, such a flawless character would be . . . perfect.

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