Today, we welcome one of my absolute favorite instructors of all time, Laurie Schnebly Campbell. Join us today to learn about your hero’s fatal flaw AND get a chance to win Laurie’s book!
HOW FABULOUS IS -TOO- FABULOUS?
We all want our romantic heroes to be drop-dead gorgeous and passionately charming and ruggedly virile and possibly even have a couple of endearing flaws from their tortured past.
Yet just how great can they BE before they lose their dazzling appeal?
MAKING MR. PERFECT
It’s tempting to skip the flaws altogether, or make ‘em something completely forgivable — like “he loses his temper when people mistreat animals” or “he can never say no to a beautiful woman.”
And if he’s James Bond, that works fine…because readers don’t CARE that James Bond isn’t especially plausible.
But what about readers who want men they can believe in? What about readers who want heroes to grow and learn and change?
That’s where fatal flaws come in.
(No, of course they’re not truly fatal — it just sounds more dramatic than “pesky but overcome-able flaws.”)
THE FATAL FLAWS
Even so, giving my hero a flaw to overcome is…well, uncomfortable. I don’t want ANY flaws in the man I love!
That’s where it helps to fall back on the classics: the seven deadly sins, plus two more added by enneagram theorists. (Ennea, or ANY-uh, is the Greek word for nine, and these nine personality types were first recognized by the Sufis and are now handy for counselors and HR managers who identify helpful and troublesome traits.)
Everybody is one of the nine types, and we almost all have bits of the others as well, along with a larger amount of two or three specific others. Enneagrams are a great way of finding personality types that have good AND bad sides of the same coin.
So, looking at the flawed as well as the admirable side of each type:
The righteous Perfectionist wants to do right and think right and BE right at all times, setting very high standards for the world (and for himself), which earns him a white hat. However, he gets angry whenever anyone (including himself) doesn’t live up to those high standards…so you can see where trouble might arise there.
The helpful Nurturer does a fabulous job of looking out for loved ones and anyone else who crosses his path, so he’s great to have on your side. However, he takes such pride in being needed that he might work to make people dependent rather than independent, creating room for conflict.
The golden-boy Achiever always looks fabulous / successful / brilliant, and can light up a room just by walking in. (Think movie star or handsome prince.) Thing is, that glittering facade might not be totally accurate in every respect, and he doesn’t know how to reveal anything else.
The never-afraid-of-emotions Romantic sees great, sweeping visions of how life could be, and his creative passion gives the rest of us something to dream about. But since everyday life rarely measures up to those great visions, he’ll feel envious every time he compares reality to the ideal.
The analytical Observer puts thoughts ahead of feelings, focusing on whatever most interests him and staying detached from petty concerns about popularity or money or fame. He’s greedy for privacy to pursue his studies, and that detachment frustrates anyone who wants his attention.
The skeptical Trooper resolutely does his job, but he’s constantly aware of potential dangers and ready for fight or flight (usually bouncing between both options). Keeping security as his top priority can be useful, but such vigilant caution can be taken too far…in either the fight or flight direction.
The ready-for-anything Adventurer embraces life in its greatest variety, keeping all his options open in the quest to enjoy every possible new experience, person and place. But since he’d rather not settle for just ONE of anything, anyone expecting some commitment will be in for a long wait.
The natural Leader has a lust for power, which keeps him in control of every situation he encounters — if he can’t control it, he won’t go there. Whether out in front or working behind the scenes, he wants to protect his soft inner core at all times, which leaves him unable to risk any (yep) vulnerability.
The easygoing Peacemaker is great at building a consensus, making everyone feel appreciated, keeping the group happy, and going along to get along. He minimizes any potential conflict by never expressing his own wishes, instead relying on whatever’s comfortable — TV, food, you name it.
So. Do any of those sound like characters (or real-life people) you know?
They could be women as well as men…I’m just using men because of that fabulous Romance University tagline: Empower Writers ~ Entertain Readers ~ Understand Men.
DETAILS & PRIZE
For anybody who’d like more information along these lines, you can get it next month in my online class (with always optional homework assignments) on “Creating Your Hero’s Fatal Flaw” link to http://www.oirwa.com/?page_id=63/#WORKSHOP3SEP OR anytime (with 90% different information than the class) in my “Believable Characters: Creating with Enneagrams” book.
Which is the prize for whoever’s comment wins the random-number drawing tonight. And that leads us right back to the question awaiting answers: Which type sounds like someone you know?
Keep in mind that most real-life people have already done a pretty good job of overcoming their flaws. It’s only the fictional characters who need to grow & learn & change…so they’ll come up against all kinds of conflict on their way to the happy ending!
RU Crew, what’s your hero’s fatal flaw in the book you’re either reading or writing?
Stop by Monday when we chat with Jo Robertson, author of The Watcher!
Laurie’s Bio: Laurie Schnebly Campbell (www.booklaurie.com) grew up in a family that discussed psychology around the dinner table. With a marriage counselor for a mother, she felt well equipped to get her romance-novel couples to a happy ending…which might be what helped her win “Best Special Edition of the Year” over Nora Roberts.
The only thing she loves more than writing romance is working with other writers, which is why she now teaches an online class every month and has written a book for novelists who want to create believable characters with built-in fatal (or not quite fatal) flaws.
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- Weekly Lecture Schedule for August 23-27, 2010: Edie Ramer, Laurie London, Tawny Weber & Laurie Schnebly Campbell
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