Infallible Characters?

Yes, you read that right. Infallible. Because it always seems (to me at least) that characters are expected to be nothing short of perfect. 

So as writers, should we follow the example of our characters or should our characters reflect us? This is always a hot topic, especially when writing Young Adult books. Should my main character curse? Is it okay to have them drink underage? Are they appropriate role models? Well, I know for fact a lot of teenagers swear, drink, and do other things that parents wish they didn’t. So why do authors get slammed when they write characters that emulate real life? Is it our job to provide a good example for teens? To create a world that’s void of real life issues and drama? 

It’s a dilemma that I struggle with. In my Traveler’s Series you won’t find much swearing or drinking or dare I say it, sex. For the most part, it’s clean and wholesome, and you’d be hard pressed to find any indiscriminate activities. 

And now I’m writing a new series and it’s geared toward an older audience, so yes, I’ll have to include aspects of real life. Yes, there’s drinking, yes, there’s swearing, and yes, you can bet there’s sex. But does that make my character a bad role model? My main character is your typical red-blooded-American-male (over 21). Does it make him flawed as a character if he does all of the above, or is he a realistic example of a twenty-something college kid? 

Personally, I love flawed characters. Perhaps they’re not the best role models, but that’s OK. It’s how they deal with the issues that makes a character worth admiring. Besides, who wants to read a story about twenty-year olds that don’t do anything. 

But, “Oh my, what if my 14 year-old reads it?” Well, I would hope younger readers are able to figure out that my characters are of an appropriate age, and that parents have taken the time to talk to their kids about being responsible and what is acceptable behavior. 

Characters can still be role models while still being true to the story, even if they are flawed.

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7 thoughts on “Infallible Characters?

  1. Shauna Granger

    Great post, Claudia! I’ve definitely felt the sting of angry readers when they realize teens in my books swear (they don’t seem to care so much about the sex, weird right?). I like to think if a character has flaws they are a better role model than one who does not because it shows readers it’s okay not to be perfect.

  2. Fully agree. I think people treat children like they’re going to emulate everything they see or read. Raise the kid to know the difference between fiction and reality and you won’t have this problem. I don’t use many swear words, but my characters of 18-19-20 do drink because it’s a fantasy world where 21 isn’t the legal drinking age. They get drunk and pay for it with hangovers and embarrassment, so the darker side is shown. Maybe people’s issues are more about stories that glorify the acts and don’t show the consequences.

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