Tag Archives: flat characters

When A Character Does Something You Dislike

13 Jan

I read a lot. I also read reviews, though I tend to read reviews after I have read a book myself. Why? Well, I used to rely on reviews to pick books, but now I tend to rely on a trusted few (and my own gut) to pick and choose. Even so, my interest in reviews never completely faded, so I tend to set time aside after I finish reading to skim book reviews.

One of the reasons I stopped reading book reviews was the obsession with tearing characters apart.

Don’t get me wrong. Characters are so, so important in fiction. However, I think many have forgotten that characters are supposed to reflect real-life people. They aren’t supposed to be perfect. They shouldn’t do things you agree with on every page. They will make mistakes, even mistakes that seem ridiculous to you.

Sometimes, your hero isn’t going to act very heroic.

Staying on the path of “when characters make mistakes that seem ridiculous to you”: As the reader, you might know more than the character. Or you might understand the tropes of your genre, so you expect certain things to happen (ex. a best friend’s betrayal, a love triangle admission, a mentor figure’s sudden death). However, to that character, they live in a world that doesn’t come with trope warnings (just like we don’t). So when their best friend betrays them and they’re shocked (and you’re not), I don’t think it’s fair to call that character stupid or naïve or etc. Even with dozens of clues, that character loves their best friend. They trust their best friend. As humans, we often lie to ourselves when the truth is looking us in the face. We make mistakes.

As much as characters are designed to entertain, they are also designed to be honest, ugly, thought provoking, loving, twisted, and more. In fact, if you design a character really well, they will be all of those things—sometimes in one scene.

As an example, I recently finished Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, and holy hell, I love it. I thought the voice was so honest, even though Dumplin has some seriously shallow thoughts. This was the main complaint I saw in reviews. Many called her hypocritical and hard to cheer on. And guess what? Of course she’s hypocritical. Of course she’s hard to cheer on sometimes. And that’s what made her believable. Dumplin’ is a teenage girl struggling with how the world judges her weight. Between that and the recent death of her beloved aunt, her contemptuous relationship with her mother, and her first (confusing) summer fling, I completely understood and sympathized with Dumplin’s emotional struggles. Does that mean I agreed with everything she did and said in every scene? Hell no! But I don’t have to agree with a character in every scene to love them in the end.

How many times has your sister annoyed you, bothered you, done something you thought was incredibly thoughtless? How about your parents? Your grandparents? Your best friends? But you still love them in the end. You give them second chances. You let go of the idea that everyone in your life must take your advice to heart. You understand everyone lives their own life their own way, and that sometimes you won’t agree with it, but that no one needs your approval. In fact, how many times have you done something that wasn’t perfect? How many times have you done something out of character? I know I’ve disappointed myself before. I still do. I’m human. I have moments of selfishness, of jealousy, of anger, of irrational depression. But does that make me worth tearing apart? I would hope not.

I expect characters to disappoint me at some point. I try to sympathize with flaws, but also understand that some flaws are going to be out of my realm. I cheer them on when they’re good and hope they redeem themselves when they’re bad. (And sometimes, I enjoy a good story where a character is never redeemed.) All I ask for is consistency—a sense that, no matter what the character does or believes, I understand them in that moment, even in the moments where they aren’t quite themselves. I need to believe they are real, and if I can believe that, I will more than likely enjoy the journey.

In the end, I want to enjoy the story—and sometimes, stories are told by those you might not understand. Maybe even by someone you would hate. But that doesn’t automatically mean the story is unlikeable.

Let’s be a little kinder to characters, especially character flaws.

We all have them.



September’s Ketchup

28 Sep

September was too much fun!

For those of you just now checking in this month, Ketchup actually means “catch up.” At the end of every month, I write these posts describing what goes on behind the scenes at ShannonAThompson.com. Some of the topics I cover include my big moments, top blog posts, my top referrer, #1 SEO term, and more in order to show insights that will hopefully help fellow bloggers see what was popular. I also hope it entertains the readers who want “extras” for this website.

Thank you for being a part of my life this September.

Big Moments:

It was my four-year blogiversary, and WordPress was my #1 referrer other than search engines!

It was my four-year blogiversary, and WordPress was my #1 referrer other than search engines!

I went to Penned Con in St. Louis this month! I met so many new authors and readers, and had a blast! For those of you who came by our Halloween table, Natasha Hanova and I were giving away Halloween candy…and sometimes, I wore a Pikachu hat. It was fun!

The paperback of Bad Bloods: November Snow released! It debuted at Penned Con, and that was way too much fun! I’m now offering signed copies of Bad Bloods, too, so feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you’re interested.

My four-year blogiversary with WordPress also happened this month! I cannot BELIEVE I started blogging way back when in September of 2012. I freakin’ love blogging, and I’m not going away anytime soon.

November Rain (FREE)

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboSmashwordsGoodreads

November Snow

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboSmashwordsGoodreads

Bad Bloods Free Book: My #1 Clicked Item was Bad Bloods: November Snow

Bad Bloods Free Book: My #1 Clicked Item was Bad Bloods: November Snow

Top Three Blog Posts:

1. Help! My Female Character Is Flat: While writing my latest manuscript, I realized my female character was flat. How? Because I was holding her back. Why? Because I was afraid. When did I get scared and why did that happen…and how did I overcome it for her and myself? Read the article to find out.

2. Writing Quicksand: I use the term writing quicksand to describe when writing it doing more harm than good. It does happen, but that doesn’t mean you can’t overcome it or acknowledge it. This is how I got out from my quicksand and started writing again.

3. My Protagonist and Illiteracy: As many of you know, my protagonist—Serena—in Bad Bloods is illiterate. This article is about my journey in writing an illiterate character and why I chose to do so. 

Other Blog Posts:

#SATurdate: Sequel Sneak Peeks, The Light Between Oceans, Rook, & Cupcakes: A weekly update of what I’m writing, reading, watching, and baking!

#SATurdate: Pumpkin Spice Lattes, The Marked Girl, One Mississippi & Violins: A weekly update of what I’m writing, reading, watching, and baking!

Website Wonders and Four-Year Blogiversary: A monthly list of all the websites I loved and shared. Also, it was my four-year blogiversary. Can you believe it?

#SATurdate: Penned Con, Descendants of the Sun, Snow Like Ashes, & Paperbacks: A weekly update of what I’m writing, reading, watching, and baking!

#SATurdate: Blue Lily, Lily Blue, Jane Got a Gun, Sausage Party, & Galaktaboreko: A weekly update of what I’m writing, reading, watching, and baking!

November Snow Paperback Release & Sequel Sneak Peeks! The paperback came out and I released a bunch of surprises!

Penned Con St. Louis & Natasha Hanova Interview! Before I went off to Penned Con with Natasha Hanova, I interviewed her for all of you to meet. Check her out.

At the end of the month, I also like to take a moment to thank all of the websites who supported me by posting reviews, interviews, and features. If you want to be one of these websites, feel free to join my newsletter or email me at shannonathompson@aol.com. I always love speaking with new bloggers, writers, and readers! I will also share your post on all of my websites.


“I highly recommend giving this a shot. Time for part 2!” –Infinite Lives, Infinite Stories, November Rain.

“November Snow was amazing!” –Sue’s Reading Corner, November Snow

“Recommend it? YES!” –Daydreaming Books, Minutes Before Sunset


#WW Help! My Female Character Is Flat

14 Sep

I’m guilty! Oh, so guilty.

While writing my latest manuscript for my publisher, I hit a snag 38,000 words in, and could not—for the life of me—figure out what was wrong with it. Then, I realized what happened.

My female protagonist was flat.

Allow me to back track for a little bit.

I never used to have this problem. When I first set out to write books, I honestly feel like I was a better writer than I am now. At least, in regards to the first draft. I would simply let my work be what it needed to be. Now, I’m bombarded with so many rules and expectations (some awesome, some not-so-awesome) that I end up worrying about what I should be writing instead of worrying about what my book actually is, who my characters truly are, and how things will happen naturally.

Example? Well, let’s go back to where I started. My flat female character. Why was she flat? Because she wasn’t flawed. So, why wasn’t she flawed? Because I was afraid. I kept thinking about all the things readers want (and don’t want) a female character to be. Tough but not too tough. Girly but not too girly. A good friend, a completely independent lover, a strong-minded leader, a determined dreamer, and someone who never faints from total exhaustion from all that perfect-ness.

I take issue with too much expectation, especially in young adult fiction where characters are coming of age and still trying to figure out who they are, what they want, and how they’re going to achieve it. But I get it. I do. As a reader myself, I know readers are harder on female characters, because the world is harder on females in general. I have my moments, too! It’s ingrained into us, after all. But I hadn’t realized how much it was affecting books until my paranormal romance trilogy released last year. Spoiler warning now, I was shocked that my male protagonist could take a two-ton car, throw a hissy fit, and crash it at 100 mph without so much as a blink of judgment, while my female character was called all kinds of nasty names because she went underage drinking with her friends and got into some trouble. Personally, I think his choice was much more destructive considering how he could’ve killed someone else—or an entire car full of innocent people—while her reckless decision really only put herself in danger. (And she was with friends she should’ve been able to trust.) All that aside, though, only one of them was judged. And she was judged harshly. (Shameless plug: I’m talking about Seconds Before Sunrise.)

As much as I wish I could say this didn’t affect me, I think it did.

Now, when I approach my female characters, I’m hesitant to let them make any mistakes at all. I’m afraid to let them cry (because they’ll be deemed whiny), but I never hesitate to let my male characters cry (because when they cry, they are somehow seen as deep and approachable and need to be comforted).

It’s extremely frustrating, because I am also a female, and I know these judgments extend far beyond the pages of my books. It’s also why I fight my own fears to keep my female characters round. In a world that is constantly trying to flatten female characters, I will fight to keep them round. I will even fight myself—my own misconceptions and…well, flaws.

Before, I held myself back, and therefore, I held my female character back, and I apologize for that.

She is not someone I should hold back. She is strong and weak and happy and sad. She’s dealing with trauma and dreaming about the future and falling in and out of what she thinks might be love (but she isn’t sure), and she is reckless for all kinds of reasons. She also cares deeply about those around her…and sometimes she forgets to care about herself, too. But she will do her best and she will make mistakes, and the combination of both is what matters, because that is who she is.

I will not worry whether or not readers will hate or love or judge her, because she is her, and that is who she is supposed to be. And this is her story to tell, not mine.


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