Everybody has flaws. In real life, nobody fits the cookie-cutter image. Good writing workshop advice to novelists says “Give the protagonist flaws to make him human.” What? The good guy has to show his bad traits? Whatever happened to the Lone Ranger?
Okay, it’s a new world for writers. I concentrate on the unmasked Captain Luis Rojas in Next of Kin, my work-in-progress mystery novel. Like the Lone Ranger, Rojas’ major flaw is his dedication to being the good guy in the battle against crime. His wife, Marge, has tolerated that fierce dedication for twenty years. First to the FBI at Quantico [Virginia]. Then to Los Angeles [California] Police Department. Now to Maricopa County [Arizona] Sherriff’s Office. As she hopes Rojas will retire, he interrupts their twentieth wedding anniversary celebration in Hawaii to investigate a homicide. Sounds like a flaw to me. When I mentioned this to a former policeman, he said “So, what’s wrong with that?”
Aha! So, I need another character flaw for Captain Rojas. In his dedication to professionalism, he has imposed a “No-Swearing” policy for officers on duty in his district while he occasionally slips up. Demanding perfectionism but lacking the ability to comply with his own rule is indeed a character flaw.
Since Next of Kin has a dual point of view, I have to insert a flaw for Detective Investigator Taylor Madrid, a female. That’s easy. She’s aggressive and becomes obsessed with becoming a lieutenant before her superior, a male sergeant, attains that grade level. She sidesteps him to solve the current homicide without his assistance, even withholding information. Madrid has multiple flaws, like skirting policy and secretly dating a fellow officer, and refusing to seek help for tormenting dreams of a sister although she is an only child.
Now, I’ve done it. I’ve “painted myself into a corner,” as the cliché says. I hover against the wall, hoping for a solution. While I wait, my imperfect characters tangle with more trouble.
Quick! Throw me a new brush so I can paint a door to escape.