Struggle With Something

Yesterday I complained that Captain America's flawlessness made him boring.

I wanted to narrow down on what I meant by flaws. My only contrasts yesterday were Tony Stark and Thor. Both have flaws {primarily arrogance}. Both are interesting. {Captain America is a lot of things, but he's not interesting. I love him, but I don't empathize. Mainly because he has nothing to empathize with him about.}

But flaws is a very general word, and it doesn't just apply to bad-boy heroes like Tony Stark. Or to jerks-turned-knights, like Thor. It doesn't have to apply to bad-boys at all. {Not...that I'm gonna turn one down.}
  •  Bilbo Baggins {The Hobbit} has flaws. He's terrified of risks, cares too much about what people think, and a little bit of a cheat. As the story progresses, he's the one who steals from the dragon, and he stops caring about other people's opinions {"I like less than you have as well as you deserve..."}. I'm not sure what happens to his cheating streak. 
  • Katniss {The Hunger Games} has flaws. She's anti-social, cynical, and bossy. Because of the Games, she learns to be a nicer, more sympathetic person. I think. {THG is hard. So tragic.}
  • Neo {The Matrix} has flaws. He doesn't believe in himself. By the end of the movie, he does. Simple, powerful character arc.
  • Luke Skywalker {Star Wars}, the PERFECT HERO OF PERFECT HEROES, has flaws. He's rebellious and headstrong and immature. Obi-Wan helps him work through that...and then Luke has to deal with the whole new set of issues that come when you discover your dad is, um, your archenemy. Serious identity crisis, that.
In the best stories, something is between the character and whatever the character wants. {Yes, the character must want something. That's vital.}

I've come to realize that the something {between the character and what he wants} most not ONLY be external. It can't ONLY be a thousand-member army, or a dangerous trek across the mountains, or a red-skinned villain. It can't ONLY be a financial crisis, or a giant troll, or a bunch of Careers.

If your only something, your only conflict, is measurable, if you can take a tape measure to it, there's something wrong. If your only conflict is something you can photograph, there's something wrong.

Sure, external conflict is great. But you MUST have internal conflict as well. Your character MUST struggle with something. Inadequacy. Fear. Arrogance. Caring too much about other people's opinions. Unrequited love. Bossiness. Guilt. Memories they can't shake. Whatever. They must struggle with SOMETHING.

Even the best of characters, the most lovable ones, have flaws. As I said, Bilbo. Lucy Pevensie gets reprimanded a few times. Anne Shirley--now that list is long. Laura Ingalls Wilder is always getting into trouble, too. In a story, even the most "perfect"--sweet, charming, sympathetic--main character can't be perfect. Otherwise they're boring.


AimeeLSalter said...

Isn't that interesting. I watched Avengers today and definitely found Captain America reticent - but I read it as him being uncertain of his place and feeling slightly inadequate at times. I thought it was very interesting - and a nice counterpoint to Thor's bravado and Stark's snark.

LOVED the Stark / Hulk bromance. That was inspired.

Traci Kenworth said...

Nicely put!!