Who has led a perfect life? Made all the right decisions? Never had an error in judgment or in action?
Raise your hand!
Uh huh. Didn’t think so.
We all have our trials — sometimes literally. We all have tribulations big and small, unanswerable questions, panicked moments that turn into days or longer. We stumble through parts of our life, sometimes fall down hard. We get up and we go on. And then, due to human nature and Mother Nature’s odd sense of humor, we do it all over again. The best lessons we learn are when we catapult over what once knocked us flat.
And women’s fiction is no different. The characters, in one way or more, must mimic elements of real life. The characters have to be believable — and perfect is not believable. Kind of boring to write too. Plus, can you think of anything better than your character making a mistake – a bad choice – using questionable judgment – and having that hit home with readers?
BELLS! WHISTLES! BOOK SALES!
And then eventually your character finds her way of the mess, tunnel, relationship, ditch or job. She might be dislikable for a while. She might incite panic in your reader. She’s not perfect but she makes it out, makes a change, sees the cliché light. And that hits home as well because she’s a character based on human traits, emotions and actions.
The same thing goes for writing. We often stumble through our works in progress, our ideas and our revisions. Sometimes we head off in the wrong direction and if our life was a book people would be screaming NO! NO! NO! DON’T! But instead, we fall into that hole and then, we get up and we get out. We go forward with what we’re working on or we start something new.
In women’s fiction especially, art mimics life. And our lives can mimic art when we’re inspired by it. It’s not a new concept.
But it’s worth repeating.
This post was inspired by a desire to make my main character a little less capable (thanks, Pamela!) and give her a few more metaphorical scrapes on the knee. Do you characters make some bad decisions? Do something they shouldn’t do? What’s the learning curve for your character? Do tell!