Flawed, or perfectly flawed. An oxymoron? Not if you write fiction. Fiction characters have to remain attractive enough to keep you reading, yet real enough to be believable.
My favorite fiction characters are both Patricia Cornwell creations. One perfectly flawed, the other, well, just plain flawed.
Dr. Kay Scarpetta is the gutsy Chief Medical Examiner of Richmond, Virginia. Scarpetta is perfectly flawed. Exactly what does that mean, you ask? Well, Dr. Kay's downfalls are things that we can live with, i.e., drinking too much coffee, falling for the wrong man, being too feminine when she should be masculine, and being too masculine when she should be feminine. At times, she's so aloof she comes across as arrogant. She's a perfectionist at all times. In other words, her personal burdens and character flaws most of us would gladly bear.
So, where does her perfection lie? Well, for starters, there's no crime scene investigation that she can't solve, and no autopsy closed without the cause of death. Scarpetta is always immaculately dressed (critics say overdressed for her salary), and her beautiful two-story home is ornately decorated. She drives a great car (black Mercedes), and hobnobs with all the right people (mostly bigwig politicians).
Scarpetta's cohort, Richmond police captain Pete Marino, is definitely a character I would describe as flawed. He's an overweight, bald, chain smoker, who works long hours, eats TV dinners, and keeps his Christmas lights up year round. Foul language spews from his mouth like a shaken, carbonated beverage, his shirt tale stays untucked, and his truck is filled with fast food containers, cigarette butts, and stale coffee cups.
Any perfections? No, even his good traits are either over or under done. Then why a favorite? Because Cornwell plays Marino's character off Scarpetta like a like a good violin. And we all know, in the master's hands, any old instrument makes beautiful music. Scarpetta herself describes Marino as someone she's known so well that it sometimes seems like they are inside each other's head. Together they make the perfect team, and successfully complete eleven novels, highly recommended, and listed in sequential order below.
When queried, several poster friends on Mindsight.com brought varied, colorful favorites.
Laurel Johnson would be Elnora in "A Girl of the Limberlost." Why? Because she was poor yes, but brave and resourceful, proud and strong. Running a close second would be the mysterious woman who the beekeeper marries in The Keeper of the Bees, also by Stratton-Porter. Laurel says these characters enjoyed simpler times, unsullied natural resources, and simply oozed decency from their very pores. The females weren't yet bogged down in the modern work world, growing more cynical with every day. The men were strong inside where it counts, decent at the core.
Jan Fields thinks she would be Kinsey Milhoune she cuts her own hair, lives in that gorgeous apartment with the nautical theme, and owns one dress -- chosen for its ability to be worn after being stuffed in a purse all day. (Wait a minute suddenly Jan thinks she might already BE Kinsey .
Growing up, C. E. Winterland wanted to be Peter from C. S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Naria." "I think it would be so fun to have objects in your house suddenly turn into portals to a fantastic world. James Bond would be fun too, but these days, I think Albus Dumbledore is more my speed."
Barbie Perkins-Cooper would be a combination of many, including Princess Diana, who she admires "because of her courage to stand up and make a difference, even when others did not approve." Also, Betty Rollins, who wrote "First You Cry," about breast cancer and how she survived it, and of course Mary Tyler Moore and Oprah Winfrey. "Oprah plays wonderful characters and is a role model for so many. Surviving child abuse made her a strong individual, able to defeat those who put her down."
Dennis Collins says "If I consider the influence that a character(s) had on my decision to become a writer, I would have to say that the seed was planted by the Hardy boys, but clearly the man of stature is none other then Mike Hammer, the PI against whom all others are measured. Mickey Spillaine's signature warrior is, without a doubt my runaway winner."
Laurieanne Cruea was formerly drawn to Hamlet, with his dark, moody personality and obsessive attitude. "I used to fit perfectly. I can also identify with Eric (a.k.a. The Phantom) from 'The Phantom of the Opera', closely followed by 'The Phantom of Manhattan by Fredrick Forsyth. Now, however, I believe I would have to choose Prudence in 'Ravished' by Amanda Quick. She was strong, secure in herself, and overlooked outward flaws to see the true character within the people surrounding her. She was unselfish, loving, and intelligent without being overly domineering. She fought for what she wanted, and gave as good as she got. And she had just enough naiveté to pull it all off!
Nancy Mehl, a columnist for MyShelf.com would be a cross between Kay Scarpetta and Jessica Fletcher. "Jessica is much 'sunnier' than Kay - especially now, and she is one classy dame. Of course, if I were either one of these ladies, I would expect my friendships to dwindle dramatically. Everyone they know seems to keel over at the drop of a hat I would love to have the knowledge Kay does, without having to actually 'look' at dead bodies They're both gutsy and smart. I think Jessica is a little more my speed - but quite a bit older. How about this, I look like Kay, am her age, but have Jessica's life???"
Nancy Marie, also a columnist for MyShelf.com would be Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone With the Wind." Nancy says, "She never let anything get in her way, and always got what she wanted, even when what she wanted wasn't good for her. She was a fighter, not a quitter, and I admire that in just about anybody. Didn't particularly like her tactics, but you've got to hand it to her for not giving up when things got tough. I can identify with her in lots of ways."
Well, one thing is certain - those who read, and those who write are creative thinkers, no doubt about it.