Why? Because we all relate to flawed characters. We recognize something in them that is also in us (or perhaps in someone close to us). Perfect heroes are boring!
When I’m in deep imagination about a character, I feel as if I’m getting to know them personally. I even dream about them (often in scenes that SHOW me their character). I ask: “Why is this character like he is? What motivates him?”
I think about what shaped their life to bring them to the person they are. In the case of Aaron Bricewick (hero of True Surrender), his parents’ divorce when he was a pre-teen was a pivotal event in his life. It is the start of his fear of commitment and his need to be in control. The lack of interaction he received from his father contributed to his heightened need for respect from others (which drives him to make personal sacrifices for the sake of his military career).
When I start writing, I try to put myself in the character’s shoes. Because what that character would do in a particular situation is not necessarily the same as what I would do. Sometimes I have the character all figured out and then she goes and does something totally unexpected! In those moments, I stop resisting or trying to place my personal reactions on the character and listen to what she wants to tell me.
For example, when Holly found out about Aaron’s addiction to pain pills, I had intended for her to dole out some ‘tough love.’ Instead, her own insecurities about single parenting surfaced in an unexpected way. When I let go and allowed the character permission to do what she wanted, the scene took an unexpected, intriguing twist.
The second half of the equation, of course, is the situations I put the characters in. In both my novels I was very intentional about this; I chose them expressly to bring out the characters’ flaws (if I didn’t, how would they ever show?) In True Surrender, Aaron finds himself in some unusually intense (and emotional) situations – which lends itself to all kinds of character development.
But that’s a topic for another post on another day!