I like realistic characters. I don’t like it when they’re perfect. When I read, I’m pretty oblivious to the perfection of other characters unless its so over the top that my teeth start rotting because of the sugar content of the book. But, when I write, I’m Critical. My heroines can’t be too nice and I can’t stand it if my heroes are perfect. Who is? What man have I ever dated that had perfect teeth, gorgeous hair, blemish-free skin, worked out, had a great job, body and personality to match? Ah, none. Men aren’t perfect the same way women aren’t perfect.
I read somewhere that to write good romance, the heroine had to be less than perfect but the hero couldn’t have a single defect. The writer claimed a heroine who had faults was a someone women could relate to and I agree. But they added that women liked romance because they liked to imagine the perfect man sweeping them off their feet. They even went on to add that no amount of perfection no the side of the hero was too much.
I disagree. I think that less than perfect heroes are not just more realistic, they’re more attractive. The same way less than perfect heroines are more attractive.
I like to read about a woman who’s struggling in some aspect of her life because that makes her likeable and someone I’d laugh with and share my own struggles with. The same way, the guy in the story needs to have some sort of issue.
Now, I don’t mean that psychopaths would make a good character. Hannibal the Cannibal scared the bananas out of me when I read his biography (though he is a great hero in Thomas Harris’ novel Hannibal). I just mean that perfection is…well, too perfect.
I read a book where the hero was Perfection Incarnate. This guy walked around all day with a halo on his head. He couldn’t let a little old woman stand for more than two seconds without offering her a seat and he did everything perfectly from cook to sing. Even his body was perfect, from teeth to toes, to nails and hairs in between. It was almost ridiculous. He could heal better than the town doctor, could resolve a disagreement better than the cops, and out shone the local haircutter. When he rescued the heroine’s lost dog, I almost gagged.
I like the hero to have a journey in the book. To me, it’s interesting when he has a hurdle to overcome. If he hates outspoken women because his mother never let him say a word as a child and our heroine doesn’t shut up? Could he love her anyway? How would that work? To me, he’s more interesting if he has quirks than if he doesn’t. Those issues don’t turn me away, on the contrary, I want to know how he works them out. It makes me curious. Perfection is boring and really, no man is ever perfect (certainly my lovely hubby isn’t as I can attest when I hear him sing).
Men aren’t perfect and we love them anyway. Maybe more so because they’re flawed.