Hey everyone, I'm Kristen Banet (or I hope I am, this is my website). Welcome to my new blog! Expect ramblings and just my thoughts on just... everything. I needed a place for stream of consciousness ideas, thoughts, and musings, so I'm going to do so here and blast those to the world. There will be typos and such here. You have been warned.
Today, I wanted to ramble about character flaws and believable characters. This will be long since I tie it into world building as well.
We all want characters with depth and to be interesting. Personally, I love to love/hate a character. Enjoy them at their best and despise them at their worst. I want them to feel real. Why am I rambling on this today? I'll be honest- a review brought up something. This isn't a call out of the specific reviewer at all, but rather, the thoughts that it brought up in me. I'll have one quote from the review later on that I want to discuss.
Sawyer smokes. Vincent smokes. Elijah... smokes rarely but it's known to happen (he used to dip and quit. Everyone cheer for Elijah). It's a disgusting habit. It makes teeth yellow, it creates a smell, and it'll kill you. I would know- I smoke. My husband smokes. Many of my current friends smoke. In college and in the Navy, many of my friends smoked and its how I met them, at the smoking section (fondly called the "smoke pit").
When I created Sawyer and her men, I took into consideration several things. Their employment was a big part and a good example. Sawyer is a retired assassin and she's a thief. She's a criminal and there's no real way to justify that even with the good things she does. The guys are men who chase after dangerous Magi criminals, risk their lives going after serial killers, crime lords, and in Vincent's case, his own family. Smoking to them is just something they've picked up to handle the stress.
Now, I have no problem with people hating smoking. Seriously, it's a habit that will kill me. Then again, a lot of things will.
So, "Kristen, if you don't care if they don't like smoking, what's the deal? Why the ramble? Why do you really seem to want to get this off your chest?"
This quote from the review is what stuck out to me and got me thinking: "In this day and age, anything that glorifies smoking doesn't seem like a great idea."
I mean... why? People smoke. People who work difficult jobs that stress them out, people who deal with stresses that need an outlet, people who are bored. People smoke. I would understand if Sawyer was YA. One doesn't want to glorify smoking to minors, but this isn't a series for a YA reader, This is a series about adults, for adults. Adults smokes. In 2015, 15% (roughly) of all adults in the US smoked. Smoking rates in the military are even higher (look back to what I said about their employment).
Should I not give a character a believable flaw to appease the idea that "smoking is bad, don't do it"? Sawyer's series will hit a lot of topics that will make you uncomfortable. You might not want to read about them and sometimes I get very uncomfortable writing about them. Racism. Prejudice. Religious fanaticism. Government corruption. PTSD and other mental illnesses. Death. Grief. Just to name a few. I worry how these themes and topics will be received. I wonder if I am taking it too far.
But I want my world to be believable. I want my characters to be as real to you as they are to me. Have I succeeded? I don't know, but I'm doing my best and I'm learning and growing with every book (I think).
So they will have flaws that aren't popular because that's the world we live in. They will have flaws that make you (and me) want to strangle them. They will shove their foot in their mouths. They will make mistakes. Hopefully, they will grow and change. Overcome those flaws and yet get new ones as they overcompensate to fix themselves. They will explore topics that make people uncomfortable and don't shine a pretty light on society.
An author shouldn't be held back by popular mindsets of the culture/people around them. If you want a character to have a murderous streak, have one. Addiction issues? Do it (Troy and Gabe). Give a real as to why these characters have a problem. Give them a flaw to overcome. On a personal level, some of my characters have flaws they share with me. Not just the smoking, but more serious ones.
Is there a too far? No/Probably/Yes (it depends on what you're going for).
Character's flaws make them real, just as much as their positives so, maybe even more so. I hold a personal belief that characters don't really need to be likable all the time either. I have friends that I adore and love but they will do things that I despise sometimes. I have one who is very good at a "big fish story". He always has one at the ready and it makes everyone around him roll their eyes.
I focused a lot on smoking, but this goes for anything. Troy and Gabe with their addiction issues as my main ones. It was personal for me to do those two. Realistic characters, believable worlds can't be completely held back by the conventions of society. Sometimes, they need the worst society has to offer.
And what's a good redemption story if there's nothing to overcome?