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Breaking the Mold: Why Fantasy Needs Flawed Characters

I’m not sure about you, but I’m really struggling to read and access current fantasy and sci-fi books.

It’s the characters. Something is just so porcelain and perfect about them, like I’ve seen them all before in other stories and they’re the same stony, perfect people in different settings.

Where’s the diversity? The genuinely flawed characters that capture the essence of human imperfection and complexity? Characters that make us readers yearn for more of their story as we truly connect with them?

Flawed characters.

That’s what I want to see more of in fantasy books.

Like, real proper, flawed characters. Not the perfect Mary-Sue or male equivalents we’re getting in books at the moment. You’re perfect but you’re grumpy and treat everyone around you badly? That doesn’t count!

I want to see excitable characters, introverted, gentle men and bold women with laughs as great as the sun.

I want to see people who aren’t smart, or people who are smart but are absolutely terrible at everything else.

People who can’t fight and don’t then mysteriously pick up a weapon and use it perfectly the first time.

Girls who aren’t girly, but not in the ‘trying to be a stereotype opposite’ way we get in everything.

Men whose default flaw isn’t just drinking.

And while we’re at addictions, what about other addictions? Characters go on grand adventures — don’t they miss or struggle losing something? How many of us these days can go a day without our coffee? What are your characters addicted to? Stories can have drugs, gambling, or coffee, or chocolate and foods.

Talking about foods, how about characters of different sizes?

People who struggle with crippling self-doubt, no matter how good they are, so it holds them back.

People who are socially awkward, but not in the ‘sexy’ way we’re seeing everywhere. Real struggles that can lead to funny or cringe-worthy moments as they struggle to communicate, and their friend rolls their eyes.

I can go on, but I think we get the picture. We want non-standard fantasy characters.

Real people.

We need to stop making our fantasy characters perfect or superficially flawed. Humans are messy, and that’s glorious.

That’s what we’ll relate to. That’s what we’ll love. They’re the characters who will stay with us.

So let’s create more of them.


Originally publishing on Medium.


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