Jillianne Hamilton explains why the not-so-perfect characters are the most entertaining.
Chick lit is full of well-written, flawed characters. Take, for instance, the book that started it all: Bridget Jones’s Diary. Bridget Jones smokes, drinks and doesn’t work out as much as she should. This immediately got our attention because it made her a relatable character. It was her flaws made us sit up and go, “She’s just like me!”
In 2000, the chick lit world met Becky Bloomwood. Becky is charming, funny and charismatic. But it’s her most significant flaw that makes it into the title of the book: The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic (also called Confessions of a Shopaholic). Becky’s addiction to shopping makes her relatable and is the source of many conflicts throughout the series.
Even the men of chick lit can be flawed. The original chick lit love interest, Mr. Darcy of Pride & Prejudice, is flawed. He is memorable because he judges the Bennet family early on before falling for Elizabeth, our hero. (He is also memorable because of that scene in the 1995 BBC version where Colin Firth jumps into the lake in that white shirt. But I digress.)
The best example of a flawed/likeable character might be Dexter Morgan from Dexter. I mean, the guy is a serial killer. That is probably the worst flaw a person can have — except wearing socks with sandals. There’s no excuse for that. The viewer can tell Dexter has a good heart, he’s incredibly smart, he has people he cares about and he limits his victims to bad people. Well, bad people besides himself, anyway.
My main character, Molly Miranda, is tragically flawed. In fact, she’s a criminal. She works as a freelance thief, taking job assignments to steal big-ticket items from museums, galleries and wealthy collectors. To risk her life like this, she obviously has a problem with greediness. She’s not satisfied with a nine-to-five job, making a normal wage or living in a basic apartment like most people her age. She wants it all and she breaks the law over and over again to get it.
Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire isn’t a lesson in morality. At the end, she doesn’t decide to straighten up and live a rule-abiding life. This is just the story of a person who happens to be a professional thief.
To counteract this flaw and keep the reader interested, I had to make her likeable and relatable. Molly’s always-running interior monologue is witty and sarcastic. She is terrible with relationships. She has major trust issues. She doesn’t live on a diet of juice blends and quinoa. She sleeps with her roommate, even though she knows she shouldn’t. When it comes to her job, she messes up there from time to time too.
To make up for their character’s biggest flaw, a writer must do a balancing act with their character traits. Their flaw must be motivated and come from a place the average reader can understand. Molly Miranda’s biggest flaw stems from her need of financial security, a love of money and having nice things. It also stems from wanting to be her own boss and not have to work a normal job. All of those things seem understandable to me.
For me, there is nothing more boring than a character who is perfect. Even perfect characters with one minor flaw can be kind of dull. (“She’s perfect in every way… except she flirted with a cop once to get out of a speeding ticket.” Yawn.) Giving your characters an equal number of positive and negative traits helps to make your characters seem more real.
If you’re having a hard time coming up with character traits, check out these two books by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi: The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes and The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws
Professional, experienced contract burglar. It’s not exactly something you can put on a business card.
Molly Miranda has made a successful living from “acquiring” valuables and delivering them to clients who pay buckets of cash for her unique services. So what if she has to lie about her lavish lifestyle in Manhattan and her frequent trips out of the country? Molly has everything under control. Things go astray when she knocks boots with her charming roommate right before taking off to Scotland with an untrustworthy wildcard on a job assignment that doesn’t go quite as planned. It doesn’t help that this new partner-in-crime is super annoying. And attractive…
Join Molly on her hilarious adventures as she dodges bullets, trespasses, wears disguises, and steals her way into trouble.
Jillianne Hamilton is a writer and graphic designer who lives on Canada’s beautiful east coast. She recently published an action/comedy novel, Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire. She enjoys chocolate cheese cake and gif animations of corgis.