Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Can Flawed Characters Be Too Flawed?

There are certain blogs I read on a daily basis, or at least I try to read them on a daily basis. Some days are better than others. Kind of like me blogging, eh?

But anyway, one of those blogs is Dear Author, I like their book and movie reviews, their link roundups, and basically everything. So, they are a must-read.

Two days ago, they posted a review of Stacia's Kane's new release, Unholy Ghosts. Though the reviewer thought she loved the world building:

This is where my love for Chess Putnam ends, because Chess is a drug addict. I have a serious problem with a protagonist that is a drug addict. I don’t give a shit how magically gifted she is, how awesome she is without being MarySuetastic. If Chess wasn’t such an addicted fuckup I think I could really enjoy the superior worldbuilding, as gritty and ugly as it is, and possibly even enjoy being slightly scared outta my pants at times. I love a good post-apocalyptic urban fantasy, but to have the heroine portrayed as a drug addict makes it a tough pill to swallow.

Because of this, the book received a C rating.

And then it seems all hell has broken loose. I haven't read all the comments on the review thread, simply because I haven't had time. I did read that Ms Kane replied to the problem the reviewer had with the heroine's being a drug addict, and a warning Ms Kane posted regarding the book as well. And hell has broken loose even more. Yesterday, over at Dear Author, there was a post about a The Reader Responsibility to Author Direction and at last count, there were nearly sixty comments on that.

Now, I don't have a problem with the reviewer, or Ms Kane, or any of the responses. I don't really see the fuss over what Ms Kane said, which was basically, the heroine is a drug addict and if that is subject matter you find disturbing, don't read the book. She also posted on her blog a rebuttal of sorts. I haven't had a chance to read it in its entirety either.

But, the point of this post isn't exactly about the review, although I have to confess, it did make me want to read the book and I don't think I've ever read urban fantasy before. Nonetheless, I was intrigued, so I ordered it from Amazon and it should be here tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it!

The point of this blog was that the kerfuffle got me to thinking about character flaws. How much is too much? And I don't mean villains. I believe villains can be as flawed as possible, as evil as possible, as long as their motivation allows it. Any more than that, and you've crossed into cartoon territory.

But what about a hero or heroine? I personally don't have a problem (or, at least, I don't think I do. I'll let you know when I finish Unholy Ghosts) with a heroine or hero who has a drug/alcohol addiction. Now, I could be wrong, but considering Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City books have a LOT of drug use in them, and none of those characters are repentant about it (of course, they are set from the mid-1970s through the early 1980s, but still...)

So for me, I haven't come across a hero or heroine whose flaws are so terrible that it prevented me from liking a story. I've been more annoyed by ridiculous characters (TSTL heroines, for one) and idiotic plot twists that make no sense or go beyond my capability to suspend disbelief, than I have by character flaws. There are books by my favorite authors that I never finished (Johanna Lindsey's No Choice But Seduction being the most recent. Had a plot twist so unbelievable that I closed the book, put it down, and have not looked at it since, and that was last summer.)

But what about you? Would a character's being a drug addict be enough to make you dislike a story?


AstonWest said...

Characters can be too flawed only if there is nothing redeemable about them. I haven't read this particular book, so can't say for sure, but would think that the addiction is just one part of the character's profile (much in the same way that mine is an alcoholic).

Just like a**holes, everyone's got an opinion. I once had a person reject a story of mine because it had a suicide, and "my mom wouldn't like it." So, hmmmm... ;-)

Kim said...

I'm reading it now and it's pretty good so far. I'm only about 7 chapters in, and so far, I'm not at all offended by the MC's (Chess) drug use. We'll see, though.

I do know one thing, Stacia Kane's got me wanting to write beyond the boundaries of my own genre, so that's a good thing right there. :D

Emily Hendricks said...

The MC in the book I'm subbing is amazingly flawed - she's a druggie, albeit in rehab. Her life is a complete mess and she put it in that direction. Yes, she finds redemption, but she's flawed to the end. Everyone's flawed, why can't our characters be?

Kim said...

Exactly! That's how I see it, too! :D