Monday, July 9, 2018

7 (Extremely Flawed) Literary Characters We Love and Why

Book characters are life. If you don’t have few dozen (or hundreds) of fictional characters you spend your life pinning pics of on Pinterest, making memes for, staying up late coming up with wild theories and headcanons about, and like a lot better than some of your own acquaintances well…you’re lying. People like people. And when those people are fiction, that’s just BETTER. (For some reason???)

But here’s the thing. Sometimes our fictional people tastes can get…strange. I’ve always said some of my most favorite fictional characters are people I wouldn’t be able to stand in real life. But here I am, wasting my life pinning pics of them on Pinterest.

So how does that work? How do writers make less-than-desirable people the loves of our lives? Because there’s a fine line there. As a writer, you’re always told to give your characters flaws, don’t make them too perfect, make them seem human. Buuut sometimes people can go too far with this and just make downright mean, annoying characters. Not exactly the protagonists you want to look up to. Where’s the balance? Why do we love some flawed characters and not like others?

WELL. Today I’ve got 7 very human characters to look at as examples, so we can examine what makes them so likeable and apply it to our own writing. (What do you mean is this just an excuse to fangirl over characters? Of course not! Pssshh.)



Out of Time trilogy by Nadine Brandes

Confession: I didn’t like Parvin at first. Really through the whole first book of this trilogy. She was immature, stubborn, and ridiculously impulsive. But then I realized…

That was the point.

The trilogy is about Parvin’s growth. About her learning to love and care for all people, and never, ever giving up. And that’s when I fell in love with her. Because she NEVER gave up. (And let me tell ya, this author was not kind to her protagonist…at all.) The trials Parvin went through trying to fight for the rights of humanity were unbelievable. If it were me, I’d probably eventually just curl into a ball and say forget it. But Parvin never did. She fought and fought and fought. Despite so many going against. Despite everything going wrong. Despite nearly losing her life time and time again. She just kept fighting.

Through the course of the trilogy we watch impulsive, immature Parvin grows into a beautiful leader who learns to take her flaws and turn them into gifts God can use for His purpose.

. . . What We Can Learn From Her . . .

That it’s okay to make the character unlikable at the start of the story. You guys know character arcs are my favorite, and Parvin had a wonderful one. Don’t be scared to start out your characters as rather unpleasant. Just don’t keep them that way. Let them grown. Parvin chose to take her trials as growth and learn from them, and she never gave up. And, this character who I wrinkled my nose at in book #1, became one of my greatest inspirations by book #3.


Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Dear Lionheart a.k.a Leo. He is one of the few characters we get to watch grow from a rambunctious child, to selfish youth, to brave man. And what a journey it is!

Lionheart has a hard time accepting his life and responsibilities. As a result, he lets his selfishness take over and hurts so, so many people along the way. And when people need him the most, he runs. But through the goodness of his friend Rose Red and seeing the devastation his mistakes has caused, he realizes he can’t run anymore. He has to face his responsibilities and do what he can to make things right.

Leo is such a complex character, it’s hard to even describe what makes him likeable. Sometimes you just want to hate him, but, somehow, you can’t. (At least, I never could.) I think what makes it work is at first, you’re drawn in by his wit and charisma. But shallow traits like that can only go so far. Yes, people love funny characters, but if said funny character keeps hurting people, their humor is going to start losing its effect. With Leo, his charm pulled us in at first, yes, but then what kept our hearts attached was the relatability. Leo did not run from his responsibilities and hurt people out of malice. He was scared. He was just a scared boy with too much thrust on his shoulders. And can’t we relate? How many times do we want to hole up in our rooms and hide from responsibility? How many times does fear keep us from reaching our best potential?

For a time, Leo lost sight of who he was, or who he should be. But, after many trials, he realized his mistakes and strived to do better.


. . . What We Can Learn From Him . . .

Giving your less than likeable characters humor and charisma is a great way to draw the readers in, but eventually you need to go deeper. Make their flaws relatable, like Leo’s fear of taking responsibility. Something like that can go a long way.


Carswell Thorne
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

AH YES. How can I make a list of likable, flawed characters without adding the devilishly handsome spaceship captain full of sass and wit. REALLY NOW??? Thorne’s charm gets the best of all of us. You know it’s true. But let’s be real for a minute, Thorne is selfish. He’s a bit of a conman and totally full of himself. So why do we love him?

The thing about Thorne is, he’s not a total jerk like you’d think. He’s protective of his friends, sympathizes with others easily, and is an all around pretty nice, laidback guy. I mean, when Cinder practically kidnaps him and thrusts him on a mission to save the world, he just rolls with it. So many times the “attractive” guys in fiction are just selfish jerks. Thorne makes so many mistakes and has lived a life of serving himself, but he’s not mean about it. He goes with the flow and is willing to help people when they need it. And I LOVED that. He’s just…a person. Not malicious and back-stabby. Not perfect and wholesome. Just a fun-loving guy who got roped into helping save the world.

And it doesn’t stop there. As with all good characters, we get to see Thorne become even better. Through the goodness of his friends, Cress especially, he learns to be a hero. To choose to serve others and not just himself.

Buuuut he’s also just hilarious and has the best lines in the whole series.


. . . What We Can Learn From Him . . .

That not all the “devilishly handsome, charismatic” male characters have to be jerks. Do something new and fun with them. Make them goofy and funny and sympathetic. Or place them with a kindhearted character who inspires them to become better. Trust me, readers won’t be able to get enough of him.


The Angel Eyes trilogy by Shannon Dittemore

Now Brielle is a bit of a different type of character than what we’ve look at so far, because she starts out as a good person. But she’s broken. The first book opens up with her dealing with the recent death of her best friend, which of course puts Brielle in a vulnerable place.

What I adore about Brielle is that she’s soft and quiet and emotional. She’s not trying to be some tough gal or pretends to know everything and have it all together. She’s a bit of a mess, which is exactly like any of us would be in her position. She cries a lot. She questions a lot. And she’s scared.

Through the course of the trilogy, she accepts help from others, learns to lean on friends and family, and, slowly but surely, puts her trust in God even when everything is falling apart. And through this, she becomes stronger, while still staying true to her gentle, soft spirit. She even finds it in her heart to forgive people that any one of us would have a verrrry hard time forgiving.

Brielle is fragile. Which I found very refreshing, because that’s not something you see in fiction very often.


. . . What We Can Learn From Her . . .

Giving your characters emotions is a GOOD THING. They don’t have to have it all together. Let them cry, let them feel, let them be broken sometimes. In this day in age of “strong female characters”, it’s good to be reminded that there’s nothing wrong with being fragile and gentle spirited.


Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

You all knew this was coming! Like I’d do a list of flawed characters and not put Howl on it. HA!

Why do we all love Howl? He’s egotistical, flighty, whiny, immature, has tantrums when he dyes his hair the wrong color, acts like he’s dying when he’s got a simple cold, likes to slither out of any uncomfortable situations, and is a coward. Yet he’s one of the most endearing characters in literary history, and my personal favorite fictional character. FAVORITE, GUYS. Out of like…thousands. So what makes Howl so amazing? Goodness, there are so many things.

First of all, Howl’s antics are utterly hilarious. He’s constantly getting in trouble, and then using his charming personality to get out of it. Or just spreading untrue, terrible rumors about himself to avoid responsibility. (Laziness goals right there.) But he also genuinely loves his family and looks out for them. He made a huge sacrifice to save someone’s life, just because he felt sorry for that certain someone (being vague to avoid spoilers here). He commits a lot of good acts and doesn’t even gloat about it, choosing to keep it a secret. And, at the end of it all, he shoves away his cowardice and vanity to save those he cares about. I think with Howl, he’s pretended to be this great, evil, selfish wizard so long, he’s started believing it about himself. But, deep down, he’s just a young man that got in over his head and cares a little too much, and it scares him. He’d rather be seen as selfish and unfeeling than hold the responsibility of people’s lives in his hands.

But what’s fun and different about Howl is that he stays Howl. Yes, he faces his fears in the end, but he’s still that ridiculous, egotistical wizard we all know and love. Because he wouldn’t be Howl if he didn’t hog the bathroom for 2 hours every morning and gets involved in wild antics that makes Sophie want to pull his hair out. And that’s how we like it.


. . . What We Can Learn From Him . . .

There are two things I always take away from Howl. 1.) Showing a heart of gold under a seemingly aloof, rotten character will pretty much always bump them up to #1 in your readers' hearts. 2.) Even if your character goes through a major arc, you shouldn’t erase all their flaws. Sometimes it’s good to keep them who they are. Make them a better person, yes. But just because someone has a major breakthrough doesn’t mean their personality is wiped out. Stay true to who they are. Those flaws are more often than not what made them endearing to the reader in the first place.


Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Because who doesn’t love Peter Pan??? But what makes this childish boy such an appealing character?

I think Peter Pan is what we all wish we could be. The boy who never grew up, gets to fly around with fairies, plays with mermaids, fights pirates, and ignore all manner of adult responsibility. #DREAMLIFE

Okay, but seriously? He awakens the child inside us. That longing of simple times and carefree days. He reminds us to find the wonder in everyday life, to stop taking everything so seriously, and to have a little fun now and again.

He’s terribly flawed, yes. He’s forgetful, a bit bratty, doesn’t think twice about putting the Lost Boys in constant danger, and extremely full of himself. But he’s a child. His nature is so real. It makes us smile. And makes us relate. Oftentimes our childish nature shows itself, amiright?

But another thing that draws us to him is the otherworldliness about his character. He’s the boy who never has and never will grow up. Who lives in a magic land of childhood wonder. Who flies and converses with fairies and steals children away to play like it’s perfectly natural. There’s something so ethereal and wondrous about his character that draws us to him.


. . . What We Can Learn From Him . . .

Not every character has to be human human. Giving them relatable traits is fantastic. But throwing in the occasional unique character—a type of character we can never be but wish for—really ups reader appeal and makes a story original.


The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Of course I must end this with one of the most beloved flawed characters out there.

There is so much to take away from Edmund’s character. We first see him as a bratty child, who doesn’t like authority, lets some mere sweets cause him to betray his own family, and gets way, way over his head. As things spiral out of control, he begins to see the error of his ways and grows repentant. But it’s when Aslan sacrifices himself  for Edmund—despite all the terrible things he did—that Edmund truly turns around. Edmund learns that if someone can love him that much, even after he betrayed them, he should love others in the same way. After this, Edmund matures and becomes a kind, caring king, seeking to do good for others, not himself.

His story is beautiful and powerful and gets me emotional every time I think of it.


. . . What We Can Learn From Him . . .

Sometimes it takes a great action from someone else to turn our flawed character around. I personally love those stories where the kindness and goodness of others changes a character’s hard heart. It’s a fantastic way to provide a powerful messages to us readers that doing good can make an enormous impact.


And there we have it! This is only about 2.7% of the flawed characters I adore (I have a problem, okay???), but these really stick out to me when I’m creating my own characters and arcs. I actually hope to do a post about character arcs and the process of making them sometime. But looking at these characters is a great start. There’s so much to be learned from all of them!



Have you read any of these books and agree with my verdict on these characters? What do YOU think helps make a flawed character lovable? And who are some of your favorite flawed characters? You know I love to fangirl!


  1. I agree with you that flaws really deepen a character's personality and likeability. I definitely had a hard time giving my characters flaws when I was younger. They were way too perfect. *Cringe*

    I seem to be the only person on the planet who did not like Thorne. I don't know if it was just his raunchy sense of humor or what, but I didn't like him...

    But I agree with you on the other ones. When I read your title, I immediately thought of Howl and Edmund. :) (BTW I'm halfway through the last Howl's Moving Castle book, and loving it! They're so hilarious!)

    1. Oh man, my characters when I was young were so perfect too. Or just personality. It was bad. XD

      Hahaha! That's okay! Like I said, a ton of the characters I love in fiction (like Thorne and Howl and Tony Stark and such) are people that would drive me CRAZY in real life. I have no clue why my fictional tastes are the utter opposite of my real life tastes. I am a strange person...

      You thought of Howl and Edmund? That's so funny! I'm glad they were good examples. Hehe. (You are? EEP. That is so exciting!!! House of Many Ways is such a fun one!)

  2. THE LAST THREE!!!!!!!!!!!!! <3 <3 Oh, Howl! He's such a brat, but he's so sweet at the same time. :')
    I agree! It's so important to give characters flaws because 1) it's relatable and 2) it's realistic. There's not ONE HUMAN on this planet that's flawless, and I'm so glad when authors choose to acknowledge that. I'm all for sweet, nice, friendly characters, but sometimes authors make their babies TOO perfect.

    1. Exactly! I don't know how Howl manages to be so awful and yet so wonderful at the same time. Only Howl... *shakes head*

      Yes and yes! We want our stories to feel REAL, and like you said, no human is perfect. So no character should be perfect either. But there is a balance. I love the sweeties too! Nothing wrong with that, we just don't want them 100% good because that's just not realistic. *nods* Wonderful thoughts!

  3. I was just waiting for you to bring up Howl, so the fact that you did was awesome and totally worth it. I absolutely love him, and I agree--he DOESN'T change! I hadn't thought about that, but it's totally true and makes me super happy. <3

    Thorne is amazing. XD

    AND MY FAVORITE BOOK BOYFRIEND LIONHEAAAAAAAAAAAAART. Leo is mine and I don't care who knows it. XD His character arc is one of my favorite things of all time--he's scared and selfish and a coward, but he grows so much, and the way that he grows is one that I can completely appreciate. I know a lot of people (including my sister) who don't like him...but he's my personal favorite (and may well be for me what Howl is for you ;))

    And Edmund. Oh goodness. *hugs Edmund* He's so flawed but so it weird that I kind of think I liked him better in the movies than I did in the books?

    I have a kind of unlikable character in my own series, my male lead's sister. And it's a struggle to make her be harsh and cruel and cold, but also be vulnerable and fragile underneath. Her upbringing has made her mean, and she's totally comfortable with that and ENJOYS it...but then she's also lonely and knows that no one likes her, which makes that a rather difficult balancing act. XD

    Excellent post, as always! <3 I love this kind of thing!

    1. Tehehehe! Of course Howl had to be on the list. Always.

      THOOOOORNE. <3333333

      I was literally thinking about you when I added Leo! I thought, "Faith is gonna approve of this one." *grins* I love how you love him. Yes, it's totally like my obsession with Howl. But aaaahhhhh! Dear Leo. His character growth gets me every time. :')

      You know, I think I like the movie Edmund a smidge better too? o.o Does that make us bad bookworms? He's just so fun and sassy and I love it!

      Oh my goodness, that character sounds sooooo complex and deep. The best kind of character! I LOVE that! And I can definitely imagine she's a blast to write.

      Thanks so much, Faith! <3

    2. Awww, that makes me so weirdly happy XD He's so precious. I'm due for a fourth pass of Moonblood. ;)

      I don't think it does make us bad bookworms...I just can't get over his sass in the second movie. "KING Edmund, actually." "So you're *bravely* refusing to fight someone half your age?" He's too wonderful. <3

  4. I have so many of these kinds of characters! Larke comes to mind ;)
    Definitely Howl, Peter Pan, and Edmund. Love all of them, beautiful post!

    1. They're just so much fun! Hahaha! "Flawed" is putting it mildly for Lark. XD

      MY BBYS. I can never get enough of them! Thanks, Skye. ^_^

  5. Amazing post! I . . . *hides in pillow pile of shame* have not read any of these books--however, I do have the entire box set of the Chronicles of Narnia in my personal library (I plan to read them in the future), and The Lunar Chronicles are on my TBR pile. Unfortunately my TBR pile is GINORMOUS so it will probably take me a bit to get to either series.

    As for flawed characters, I have found that most of my favorites almost always have pretty awful parents, and so they grow up hiding their pain, and pretty much everything else from people. It's not that I like them being so closed off--I just like seeing them grow and become more open with people as the story moves on.

    1. Awww! Thank you!
      THAT'S OKAY. You'd be astounded at how many books I haven't read that I absolutely SHOULD. And how gargantuan my TBR list is. o.o Yep. I toootally understand. But Narnia is SUCH a delightful series. I hope you get a chance to read it sometime. And The Lunar Chronicles is SOOOO so fun! I'm obsessed!

      OH. That is a brilliant point! That DOES happen a ton. The flaws do tend to come out via their childhood conditions. You're right! And yes, it's so beautiful seeing them rise above that pain and become who they're meant to be. GAH. I love it! ^_^

  6. Unlikable characters are actually the best- watching them mature and 'redeem' themselves is awesome!
    I know I call nearly every character in the Tales of Goldstone Wood a favourite, but Lionheart is definitely one of these favourites! I also love Edmund, but I think I have to say I prefer Eustace Clarence Scrubb as the best Narnian 'redeemed unlikable character'.

    1. 100% AGREED. It's so beautiful watching them grow.

      I'm with ya! They're really ALL lovable. But yes, Leo's arc is so powerful.
      Oh goodness, you're so right. Eustace would have been a great example too. Goodness, there are so many good ones out there!

  7. EDMUND!! Such an awesome character and I love him dearly.

    This was an amazing post. I loved how you broke down the parts of the character that we love and why. That's super important. Great job!

    1. You gotta love 'im! ^_^

      That is the nicest thing! I'm so happy you thought so. Thank you, Sarah! <3

  8. THANK YOU for not spoiling the Out of Time books!! I've only read the first, and fell in love! I actually really enjoyed getting to know Parvin, and I can't wait to see how she grows!

    And Edmund...always been a fave Narnia character. Especially in the movies. #kingofsass

    I really need to start reding the Goldstone Wood books, don't I??

    1. Hahaha! You're welcome. I was tryyying to be vague and not spoil anything important in all the stories (except for Narnia, but since that one is so well known, I figured it'd be okay). But YES. The whole Out of Time trilogy is absolutely amazing and I can't wait for you to read the rest! :D

      ALWAYS King of Sass, and we love him for it. XD

      YES YOU DOOOO!!!!!! Oh my goodness, they're seriously some of the most gorgeous, intriguing books I've ever read in my LIFE. Can't recommend them enough!

  9. Yesss Parvin! I honestly really disliked her throughout the first book because she never seemed to do anything. Where was the Parvin who wanted to stand up for people at the beginning of the book? She just seemed to lose that once she was across the wall.

    But after reading the trilogy, I REALLY liked her. We got to see her grow!

    1. YES! Precisely my thoughts. I had heard SO many people raving about the trilogy and Parvin, so I was just sure I was gonna love it. But Parvin really didn't grab me at first and I was confused why everyone loved her so much. But by the end of it all I knew why. Watching her grow was absolutely inspirational and beautiful.

  10. These are great examples! Thorne and Parvin are such amazingly-written characters. <3

    1. Thank you! Glad you liked them. ^_^

      YESSS. I love those two so very much!

  11. Yes, Lionheart!! I totally agree with you, at times, I just really, REALLY wanted to hate him, for being a coward, for running from his problems, but I could just never bring myself to it. I really do think it's his relatability that makes him such a likable character, as you said.

    CARSWELL IS SO WONDERFUL. XD "He's just...a person" <~ Yes, exactly!! That's what I love about him! He's cocky, arrogant, stubborn, but he still cares, and that's what matters, I think. And yes, he has the best one liners ever. XD

    Edmund's character...such a gorgeous picture it paints. It makes me emotional too. That whole series, the wonderful allegories, they make me tear up a bit. In a good way, of course. <3

    1. You said it! It SEEMS like he'd be a totally unlikable character, but he's not. Only Anne Elisabeth Stengl can pull off such a complex character!

      I LOVE THORNE SO MUCH I CAN'T. Yes, yes, yes! I do love complex characters (like Leo!), but it's always refreshing to find someone who seems like a person you'd meet on the street or something. Someone REAL. And yes, his one-liners are GOLD.

      C.S. Lewis was so amazing! ALL these authors are. There's so much to learn from them!

  12. I'm so late to the party, but. I LOVE ALL OF THESE CHARACTERS!!!!!!!!! *is dying over here*

    Literally, all you had to do was mention Thorne, and then I was like, this post is 102938473 times better :)

    You brought up some great points about all these characters, especially Edmund *fangirls* and Parvin, who I wasn’t a huge fan of in the beginning either! This post was awesome, Christine!

    1. Nonsense! *puts on Gandalf wizard hat* A blog commenter is never late. They arrive precisely when they mean to. ;)

      Bwahahaha! Thorne makes EVERYTHING a gadrillion times better. Always. XD

      So I wasn't alone on my thoughts on Parvin? So glad to hear it! She really became her own as the series went on. I was so proud of her. :')

      Thanks so much, Nicole!

  13. For me, flaws make me love a character because they are relatable. I'm not perfect, and neither should characters! Great list. There were quite a few characters on here that made me go, "Oh, he's my favorite!" Mostly Carswell, Edmund, and Howl XD They are irresistible.

    1. Precisely! It's so neat finding a character have struggles and make mistakes that we have grappled with as well. That's the mark of a good character right there. *nods*

      You can NEVER go wrong with Thorne, Edmund, and Howl. XDD

      Thanks, girl!

  14. I love this! It can be such a challenge to make characters feel real and flawed, but it really does come down to those little things that make them more than just their flaws.

    *shrieks over Thorne* (because really: HOW CAN ONE NOT?) I think, too, he's still easy to relate to in spite of his selfishness and ego because he's really just in over his head and realizing that there's something so much bigger at stake than whatever makes him happy at the moment. And he's Carswell Thorne and that's really all one needs to say, isn't it? ;D

    Edmund Pevensie is the one that gets me every time. Especially because you can see how much his actions and their consequences still resonate with him even as he grows up. That's probably why his title of King Edmund the Just us one of my favorites among the Pevensies because if anyone knows what that really means, it's him.

    1. Thanks so much, Jameson! I totally agree. It can seem overwhelming, but it's really just a bunch of small details that makes the big picture. I love how you said that!

      *shrieks with you* (It's really impossible to not.) YES YES YES! You said it perfectly. It's so beautiful watching him realize that there IS bigger things than himself and the here and now. GAH. I love it!

      Edmund's story is seriously one of the most beautiful in literary history. You are SO right, that his title of "Just" is so very meaningful. Now I'm gettin' all emotional! :')

  15. Every time I come to your blog, I come away with at least three books to add to my TBR. XD I've never read A Time To Die, Lionheart, Howl's Moving Castle (*prepares to get the book thrown at my face*) or Angel Eyes, but you can bet your buttons that those are going on my TBR list now. (even though my TBR is about the size of Mount Everest right now. lol oops. XD)

    ASDFGHJKL CARSWELL THORNE!!!! To be perfectly honest, I was just scrolling through your blog, searching for the posts I've missed when I noticed Thorne's name on the page and immediately knew I had to click. So here I am. Because of Thorne. XD I absolutely LOOOOOOOOVVVVVEEEED The Lunar Chronicles. It remains to this day practically my favorite series of ever, and that is majorly in part to Thorne. XD I JUST LOVE HIS CHARACTER SO MUCH. And I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said about him! His character growth was just PERFECTION, and his relationship with Cress is just... MY HEART. I CANNOT. I love those two together. They are such polar opposites, and yet he struggles SO hard to be the hero she believes he is. I just love those smol precious children so much...

    Also, I would absolutely LOVE to read a post from you about character arc!!! I need that in my life so badly.

    1. Bwahahaha! You've caught on to my evil plan. >:D BUT OH MY GOODNESS, KENZIE, YOU MUST READ THOSE!!! :O I did not realize you've never read any of the Tales from Goldstone Wood books or HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE. *resists the urge to hurl book at you* YES. YOU MUST READ THEM. ALL OF THEM. They're soooo good! (Okay, but seriously, my TBR is scary right now, so I understand!)

      THOOOOOOOOOOORNE!!!!!!!!!!! That's hilarious you saw his name and had to stop. Everyone stops for Thorne. XD BUT THE LUNAR CHRONICLES IS SO GOOD SLKDJFLJDF. It's definitely one of my favorite series too! And yeah, Thorne definitely helps with that. XD YES to everything you said. Him trying so hard to be a hero for Cress just...I CAN'T HANDLE IT. <333

      Awww! Okay! I will definitely try to scramble something together about arcs soon then. :D


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