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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Flawed characters have flawed thinking

In my debut book, Chapel Springs Revival, my main character, Claire Bennett, is sprucing up Chapel Springs and her marriage. 

Spoiler alert! She married before she became a Christian and now wonders if her hubby is God's best for her. And yes, this came from an overheard conversation. 

What Claire learns is that God always has her best in mind, and we see, rather than get told, how perfect her Joel is for her. That's her character arc.

Spoiler over. What surprised me was when someone said in a comment that she thought it was wrong of Claire to think like that, let alone look, for a new husband.

But that was the whole point. How could I show her misconception without taking her through the journey? Even as Christians, we can get the wrong idea about what God wants us to do. If we want it, then we tend to put God in a box that agrees with our desires. 

And that works well in Christian fiction. 

In Lisa Samson's book A Thing of Beauty, I love how her main character, Fiona, buys junk all the time, so she can turn the stuff into a thing of beauty...someday. Ten years later, her house is filled with junk and she's out of money. What a great character flaw. I wanted to shake her and tell her to do something with it or trash it. Samson used that flaw as the perfect metaphor for Fiona's life. Her character arc was excellent.   

If we don't have flawed thinking in flawed characters, then we have no character arc. Without a good character arc, there's no overcoming obstacles, and the result will not leave readers with a satisfying end.

Another book with fantastic character flaws is Invisible, by Ginny Yttrup. She has three main characters who all have flaws that are obvious, yet metaphoric for their internal flawed thinking. 

As Christians authors, we can't be afraid to give our protagonist a flaw they have to overcome. Katie Ganshert took on this task in A Broken Kind of Beautiful, where she takes us into he fashion industry.

Each of these novels is a great example of flawed characters. What flaw in your character's thinking have you capitalized on? 

Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. She's a novelist, a humor columnist, and a multi-published playwright. She resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband, their chef son, and two dogs of Biblical proportion. Her debut novel, Chapel Springs Revival, released Sept, 2014, to be followed by Chapel Springs Survival, Oct 2015, Home to Chapel Springs, May 2016. You can find Ane at her website, Novel Rocket, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+


  1. The thing about the flawed thinking--and you did this beautifully in Chapel Springs Revival--is that it makes perfect sense to the character. The reader gets why Claire thinks the way she does, even if the reader can step back and realize that the thought process is all messed up. That's why reading fiction helps us to be more compassionate humans. We learn to see things from others' points of view.

    Ginny Yttrup's Invisible is one of my favorite books. She writes characters you want to be friends with.

    Great post!

    1. Thank you, Robin. And Ginny's book is one of my favorites, too.

  2. one thing that's so frustrating to *read* is the very thing a plot sometimes needs - that a character or characters don't / won't / can't just say their reason for something. and yet... my MC did this in my second novel, to the point she wasn't even talking to me!! LOL she makes a jarring discovery about circumstances of her birth, and *should have* immediately turned to her husband. or best friend, or sister (they're close). instead she internalizes and becomes argumentative and withdrawn. not logical at all, but emotions don't answer to logic!!!

    thanks for the great article, Ane!!

  3. Robin, ya gotta love those rogue characters who just don't want to follow the rules. LOL Sounds like a fun read!


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