Flawed Characters

Reading the line edit of my upcoming September book last night, I had a rare moment of sheer joy at discovering that I was really happy with something I’d written. I’m usually much more in the camp of “I suck at writing.”

But the thing I was happy about presents a problem for me that I’m not sure how to work out. It’s a character, actually. The hero’s brother in my next release, Made You Look, is the kind of character I love to write. He’s smart and funny, and he’s also bipolar. His life is difficult, he’s insecure, he’s marginally employed… Definitely not the usual romance novel hero material. He’s the kind of guy who only appears as a secondary character in romances.

He’s a great reminder for me that there’s a balance to be struck in creating genre heroes and heroines. Yes, they need to be admirable people, but they also need to have some serious flaws that make them human and relatable. I did manage to create two quite flawed main characters in the book as well, but the hero’s brother is the one who speaks to me most clearly. I’ll be interested to hear reader feedback about him when the book comes out.

So how do we writers best strike the balance between creating flawed characters while still making them heroic? How do you do it, or if you’re strictly a reader, who are some of your favorite flawed heroes and heroines, and why do they work for you?


  1. Wow – another great question. I’m not totally experienced at this, but I think it has something to do with making the character truly, madly deep. They can’t be superficially drawn at all. Deep POV really helps, so we can see what they’re thinking they might not be saying. And, actions also help. A hero who does something that shows his affections while not expressing them…I so go for that. And I hope I create it, too!

  2. I usually try to have them do something sweet. I think if the writer shows a side of them that’s heartwarming, they’ll ride along with the flaws. I think it appeals to us women’s idea of being able to “fix” the guy. If we see a little potential, we’re willing to give him a shot.

    I haven’t delved too far into the really, really flawed, though. Still feeling I’m new and learning and I get a little afraid to go there. I can’t wait to read this story, it sounds so interesting! Is it a Blaze or Super (or something else?)

  3. Made You Look is a Blaze, Lori. It’s probably the heaviest Blaze I’ve written, with a voyeuristic heroine overcoming a recent trauma, an exhibitionist hero with an addiction problem, and his bipolar brother has a romance subplot with a recent divorcee. I just, you know, threw in the kitchen sink.

  4. Wow, Jamie, this sounds like a great story. As someone who has bipolar and is living a pretty normal life thanks to a great doctor and the proper medications, I am glad to hear that you have a character with bipolar who it sounds like you are portraying in a positive light.

    I personally like the really flawed characters, especially male characters. They are the most interesting heroes for me. Someone who’s perfect, who does the right thing all the time, and who is always rescuing the damsel in distress is boring to me. I like to have the woman be the strong one sometimes, for her to be the one “rescuing” the man. For the man to be able to show that vulnerability and accept the help that the woman is offering is one of the sexiest things a hero in a book or a leading man on TV or in a movie can do, IMO.

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