Love the Flaws (January 2012)
Characters need flaws. Blind spots. Stubbornness. Room to grow. We know a conversation can’t be productive when a man’s pride is in the room. A person can’t mature without a fear to overcome, an attitude to get her in trouble, or a dream that’s just beyond his capabilities. As writers, we work hard to create and point out our characters’ shortcomings because that’s part of what makes the story more interesting. In the course of writing, we can allow our characters to overcome their flaws--or not. As writers, we learn to be patient. Our characters need to fail. Their flaws need to get in the way a few times. They need to hurt someone, burn bridges, mess up, feel regret. And once in a while, it’s their flaws that make them heroes. It’s their flaws that make us want to love them more.
Moms want the opposite, of course. We want everyone to get along, to escape unscathed. We want characters who believe in themselves, achieve their dreams, treat everyone with kindness and respect, without the disappointment of having their imperfections revealed. We want to hug. We like blue sky.
Each January, millions of people reflect on their flaws and resolve to improve one or two. Perhaps a mom’s influence? Imagine, though, how dull life would be without all our imperfections. Moms wouldn’t need bandages if kids didn’t fall down. If couples didn’t disagree, there would be no make-up sex. How would we know how much patience we do have if we didn’t run out while encountering grumpy trolls along the journey? How could we experience forgiveness if we were never guilty? What would fuel our desire to become stronger if we were never too weak to make the climb? How would we ever grow to be who we’re meant to be if we were already flawless? We’re still at the beginning of our story. We--and the others in our story--have a lot of messing up to do before the story resolves.
Loving someone means loving their flaws too. Being patient while their story unfolds. It means letting the flaws get in the way sometimes because that might just be what will make us want to love them even more.
Maybe this January instead of improving our own (or someone else’s) flaws, maybe our resolution should be to love the flaws. It’s what makes our characters--in novels and real life--believable, vulnerable, lovable.
Hmmm. What mistake could Jesse make today? What will he learn from it? Will he lie about it? How will he grow? Will it be his pride or stubbornness that gets in the way? Will it be his fear of change? His desire to keep peace with a friend? What is the flaw that will make us love him even more?
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