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  • "Perfect" can be bad for Characters – but why?

"Perfect" can be bad for Characters – but why?

This article was originally posted in October 2018.

Soon after I had made my characters, I kept thinking, feeling that something had been forgotten. Something wasn’t right. Something had been forgotten in the makings of my characters.

I took a closer look. It took me a while, but I finally realized the problem.

My story characters were too nice.

They were too strong.

They never got seriously injured; it wasn’t realistic!

They never did any silly things, like accidentally knocking cups over by accident or spilling tea.

They were perfect!

My characters were - perfect!

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. It just so happens that in real life, perfect is great. But when writing a story with vivid characters, perfect is a bummer, and a dead end.


If everything was perfect, how boring would that be?

Where would all the action-packed adventure be? I wanted my main heroine Pia the Pinena Fairy, my main fairy character, to be a character who made mistakes but tried to learn from them. She had to be someone kids and readers could relate to. Someone who was special in her own way.

Not perfect .

“Perfect” is referred to in many different ways. For me, I think perfect would mean something or someone close to invincible. Perfect might mean being strong, smart, and agile.

What does “perfect” mean to you?

Does it mean Pia could snap her fingers and defeat the Sucker, a deadly monster, in a wing beat? (see my book The Legendary Judges of Magic) Or would it mean she would be lady-like and sit up straight, fly with boring dignity and look heroic without doing anything?

I was horrified by the idea.

If the main character was too strong or… invincible, they would be… boring. Where would their struggle be? Readers love, yearn to see characters struggle, wondering how they would get out of a certain mess.

But of course, when you’re perfect you’re supposed to be really smart and know all kinds of things! And from this a character would be invincible. If a character could do anything… I couldn’t imagine what would happen.

What should I do? I had to do something.

What did I need to do?

I needed internal conflict to spice up the story.

Hesitantly I gave my characters flaws, insecurities, bad habits, and problems. I carried out my plan and added onto my characters.

For example, Sapphire (Pia’s fairy friend) is scared and too shy to speak up. She is so shy, many times she doesn’t speak up for what she is passionate about and her own opinion.

And I added and added to my characters until my brain hurt. I created different misjudged characters and happy cheerful looking characters.

And as I did this, I found out much more than I had ever known about characters, and possible flaws they could have. A character who does everything "perfect" and is skilled in many tasks can actually harbor a secret on the inside. A character may dislike themselves for a hidden reason or a part of them that they want to throw away. If a character injures a leg, then they may become lame for life, and that could break their spirit. That is called "not perfect". 

I thought of ways to give a character internal conflict. I think internal conflict can personalize a character, and change how they react to certain things.

And I think it’s important to remember, “perfect” doesn’t always mean “good” when you’re dealing with characters.

P.S. in my book The Legendary Judges of Magic, at its very end appendix section, it also includes some writing tips and lessons I learned when writing my book. I believe that will help everyone write and start their own stories. 

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