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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Why I Love Flawed Characters


The main character in my YA novel, TOUCHING THE SURFACE, is a seventeen-year-old girl named Elliot. She has flaws--she isn't always likable. I'll be honest--I like a complex character. One reason is a selfish one. I'm very aware that I'm not always a likable person myself, but I always hope against hope that my positives outweigh my negatives. There's another reason though... I love characters with complexity because they require you to be heavily vested and they feel relatable. And sometimes they even make you feel better about yourself.

One of my first real life lessons about complex characters came from my own Grandfather. He was a first rate Archie Bunker--even called my Dad Meathead. I can't fault him for that though. My dad was sporting incredible sideburns and polyester suits.



My grandfather smoked cigars and chewed Penn clippings until all his teeth fell out. I know this because he pulled his last one out in front of everyone at Sunday dinner. He started drinking when he came home from the war and that didn't always make his the best husband or father. He worked as a corrections officer and after so many years of sleeping on the job, he never slept in a bed again--always upright in the living room chair LOL! He wasn't too trusting of banks and kept a boat load of cash hidden in the bedroom. He was one of those lucky guys who was retired for over twenty years and he'd spend his morning making breakfast and as he got older, breakfast sort of ran into lunch which over lapped with dinner.

Despite his flaws, or maybe because of them, he was a wonderful grandfather...



He introduced me to my first english muffin and let me eat four of them for lunch since I liked them so much. He made me change my brother's diapers when he babysat--even though I was only four at the time. He didn't like touching that stuff. He taught me how to wash a car and on New Years Eve we'd go outside on the porch at midnight and bang pots and pans and holler. When he won dimes while playing pool, he'd put them in glass cigar cases and give them to me. He loaned me the money for my first car when I was a senior in college.

He always looked at me like I was precious. He always treated me special. He let me put my grandmothers rollers in his hair.

And I loved him deeply--flaws and all. He was one of my favorite "characters." I miss him every day.





12 comments:

  1. *cries* What a great post! My grandfather was much like yours. I miss him, too.

    I agree with you, flawed characters are so much more fun to read. I used to hate how Nancy Drew was so damn skilled at everything.

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  2. I can see why you'd miss him. This portrait of your very flawed but very real and big-hearted grandpa made me get teary-eyed. You know, I think that type of man was very specific to that period of time. ..

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    1. I agree--they were a whole different generation for better or for worse. Probably a little bit of both. <3

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  3. I love that you describe your grandfather as an "Archie Bunker"--one of the most flawed and still most lovable characters ever on TV, I think.

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    1. I agree. You gotta love Archie. (((hugs)))

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  4. What an awesome post. Too often we don't realize how wonderful and rich grandparents are until it's too late (and by rich I'm not talking money!).

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    1. But in case you were...it was all in his dresser LOL!

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  5. Your grandfather sounds like an amazing man.

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  6. Changing diapers at 4. He really taught you to be independent. Thanks for sharing your amazing grandfather with us.

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