Portrait Of A Fashionable Lady

Excuse me?  Put out my cigarette? Pffft...
Bad habits, everyone has one right?  Meet Lily, -she likes a puff now and then, socially of course.  The only problem is, her new beau doesn't tolerate tobacco. Much.  Actually Mr Main Love Interest doesn't tolerate much of anything really, except her.  And, well she's nearing the age of having babies, so she should look after her health right?  I'm waffling again, but with good reason.  I have a question for you.   

My beloved MS, which I have been nursing for an eternity has thrown an ethical dilemma, not quite loose morals, maybe there's a whisper of gossip trailing the poor girl.  You see, -I'm trying to decide on how bad my MC should be, she must have flaws, and she does, but how far shall I push it?  I could let her have her social ciggies, or a stolen kiss with a stranger, she could lust over her best friends man, or spend her entire month's salary on a real lynx coat, -so the question is this - when you give your MC imperfections, how bad do you make them?  On a scale of 1 to 5 Chillies, please tell me, -how many bad chillies would you give your MC. Remembering that she will have to redeem herself before the end of the story...
Photocredits purchased via shutterstock
Lily isn't my real MC's name, I changed it to protect her identity.  I can't vouch for the bad habits mentioned though, she may or may not have them.  Happy Writing this weekend!


  1. Bahaha Talei this was a fantastic post to begin with but the ending, when you're protecting your MC's identity put me over the edge. This was fantastic!!!

    I think imperfections make the MC more real and relatable. Not necessarily bad. Everyone character needs a little bad ;)

  2. Miaou - you humans have to be believable. (We cats of course have no bad habits.)
    Tobacco is a disgusting habit. It might be enough on its own. Hmmm...a really bad character...another bad habit and you might be redeemable. More than that? Well it is unlikely but I suppose you could try. :-)

  3. Hi Talei

    Your post made me smile :)

    It also made me think a lot about my own MC.

    The conclusion I came to was that if you are going to redeem your MC, you need to make sure that the bad is something that needs redeeming. For instance - to redeem your MC from smoking or having a bit too much to drink on occasion, implies a censoring of this behaviour and thus alienating your readers who do indulge. Bad traits like being over-critical, being quick to run from conflict, procrastination, an inability to resist buying a pair of shoes every week would be universally accepted as being worthy of redemption (with the possible exception of the last one). Bad traits such as vindictiveness, sadism or miserliness, for example, run the risk of making your MC too unpleasant and therefore turning away your readers. (unless you are writing A Christmas Carol, in which case it's job well done)

    It's a fine line.


  4. Ha ha! Jen - so glad you enjoyed it! She's a little bit mixed up really. I agree a little badness doesn't hurt right?

    Cat, miaow miao mi.. oh, I can't speak cat! Don't feline creatures have any bad habits at all? *sniffs the air whilst slinking away*

    Dom, hello! Well I do like your comments here, the bad traits definitely a no-no, essentially its not quite a Christmas Carol so I'm safe there. I think your universally accepted redeemable traits are very good, though I don't quite follow - who in the world would buy too many shoes? I mean seriously, thats a crime, ahem... *whistles nonchalantly, ... is that the time?*

  5. Ooohhh, make em' as bad as you can! LOL I love me a bad girl/guy with bad girl/guy habits! We all have them and wish we could rid ourselves of them (sometimes) but they're part of our makeup.

    Alas, it all depends on the characteristics of your character. If you're looking for something to give her an edgy feel, then do her justice girl! If you're just looking for something to make her seem more real, then a more toned-down version would suffice.

    I guess my philosophy is, if you're going to make her flawed, then go for the gusto (without making her a sci-fi experiment)!

  6. Lily sounds fascinating and with just the right touch of wickedness. Flawed MC's are great, but unlikable ones are going to far, that's my take. I'll put down a book if I don't like a MC.

  7. Nathalie, I like that - gusto and edgy! ;-) Definitely would like to keep it realistic so not gloss over the bad stuff, I'm hoping she's memorable!

    KarenG, thanks so much! 'Lily' has a few issues but deep down, she's a gem. And I agree, unlikeable flaws are a turn off. Good to see you dear! :-)

  8. I agree with what Dom said about the alcohol and ciggies - they're not really bad qualities that once redeemed would make me like the MC any more or less. I have friends that smoke (even though I find it vulgar) and friends that I think drink a little too much but if they stopped it wouldn't make me like them more. It's the personality traits and foibles that we need to use to torture our MCs. She's loud and obnoxious because she was one of ten kids and needed to stand out to get any attention or she's shy and nervous because of an abusive parent - the trait needs to be caused by something she needs to overcome (with the help of the love interest of course) then once it is overcome we can see her as the wonderful gal she really was all along. Bad habits like chocolate/shoe/shopping addictions just make it easier to relate to the MC - as long as they're not over done!

  9. Well we cats are purrfect - even if we are not perfect! :-)

  10. I can't help you here, because so far everything I do is non-fiction. My characters have more flaws than I could ever dream up. This of course, includes the MC...myself!

  11. I think a few flaws make a character great. In fact that reminds me that I need to give my MC some.

  12. I like a little wickedness in a character. But I think the question of how far to go depends on the story and the characters.

    In my women's fiction trilogy, one of the main characters is a VERY BAD man. A gangster. But his bad qualities are off-set with a lot of redeeming traits that - I hope - make it hard to not like him. You don't approve of him or his lifestyle, but you care about him and should find yourself rooting for him to get away, even knowing he shouldn't.

    Lily sounds like a deeply complex character, much like my Cal. As other's have said, I think the trick is to make her flawed, but off-set that with enough redeeming qualities that you forgive her. And a backstory that justifies her flaws.

    I just love the picture.

    Good luck writing her.


  13. How far you go depends on the tone of your book and how you see your character 'redeeming' herself.

    In Veiled in shadows my central character loves two men and is in a sense unfaithful to both. She also lies and cheats to conceal a number of secrets.
    But the plot largely justifies her actions, and in a way she pays for her crimes and is is 'redeemed.'
    By the way she doesn't smoke and makes one of her lovers give up. Something he struggles with :-)

  14. Hmm, I would say perhaps a 3 in badness, but it sorta depends on your story. There would have to be enough redeemable qualities to counteract the bad ones--and it depends on your definition of "bad" qualities or flaws. That might be different to each reader, too. (Soooo subjective!)

    Still, if you make your MC too flawed, he/she may become unlikeable, so I think that is your yardstick to how bad. I had that prob in my last novel. I knew the MC was going to change, but I had to soften her ego and disdain for certain people groups (overweight people) in order not to turn readers off.

  15. In my mind the badness can't be something that offends your reader to the point that they would put the book down. I guess that means not more than a 3.

  16. Hi,

    OK, I'll fess up on one of my MCs.

    She's one of twins, identical twins, and she beds her sister's new man. That said, she's the sweet one, her sister slightly vile! But, there's a bit of a twist in the tale, because what with an agreed masquerade (impersonating her sister and on a blid date) how was she to know she'd fall for the hero and be tempted beyond restraint? ;)


  17. I guess the more faults, the bigger the redemption. Maybe let her have some good qualities so we like her regardless, afterall we can all identify. She has not 'found herself' yet, and with the exception of paying too much attention to her girl friend's beaus, she is really a sweet lass.

  18. Love the way you're protecting your girl! I'm a bit of a wimp - I don't like my mc to be too bad - it gets me all upset. Silly, but that's the way it is! :)

  19. The quanity and quality of those imperfections should determine how much your MC grows and changes. Mya said it perfectly.

  20. I'm enjoying reading everyones comments! Thank you for taking time to post your thoughts! ;)

    Elissa, totally hear you. I think believable flaws which can bee redeemed are probably the best option.

    Cat, purrfect!

    Pat, thanks! We do like our MCs to have human traits right, no one is flawless. ;)

    Melissa G, absolutely. I suspect I'll be making a few tweaks too.

    Donna, great advice, thank you! I think its interesting to hear about your character Cal. So often we come across MCs who may have a dark side and we shouldn't really like, but we do because we hope they have some redeeming act before the end of the story.

    Al, thank you! Appreciate your comments, and your character in Veiled in Shadows sounds interesting too. have toyed with smoking in my WIP, because its set in an Eastern city where smoking is acceptable - it fits with my MC, however I know she'll give it up pretty quick smart too. I know in Western countries, its not the norm so much to smoke now though so I'm keeping this in the back of mind. How to be PC with writing these days. Should it matter or not? It seems not as much as I thought... ;)

    Carol, I think 3 chillies sounds about right and totally agree the bad factor will be subjective. I'm glad to have the reminder that we shouldn't alienate our readers by making the flaws really unlikeable, the last thing I'd like to develop is a MC which the reader doesn't care about, after all we want them to keep reading.

    Liza, totally agree, thats the last thing we want our readers to do. I'd like them to empathise and keep reading. ;)

    Francine, I wonder if I've read that book? Have you published yet? You'll have to fess up the title because it does sound rather intriguing! And I love masquerade balls *deep sigh* ;)

    Mya, I tihnk she has good qualities. Funny that human nature always makes us look the good in someone who could just be plain bad. We live in hope, which a good thing I think! ;)

    Jemi, ha! Well she does need protecting at times but she's not a complete walkover. ;) I've culled back on some bad language, and handed over to my of her friends.

  21. Bish, thanks! Definitely the quality or depth of the imperfections should be considered,also I think you have to consider if some the flaws will be redeemable and what the impact is to the story if we chose to left some of the flaws at the end. ;)

  22. I always think a little bad can be good. I like a girl who can think for herself and decide her own morals. And that picture is great--what a fun character to write!

  23. Oh, Lilly. Poor thing! When I give my character imperfections, I try to make those imprefections an extension of the internal issue she's facing.

  24. Meredith, thanks! I think a little bad can go a long way. ;)

    Talli, that's an interesting point, I like that! Will definitely keep that in mind with my rewrites - thank you!

  25. LOL. Great post. We all have bad habits, right? Even our MCs. :)

    xoxo, The BooKrushers.

  26. Give her flaws, but not flaws that she cannot redeem because let's face it - our audience needs a gal we can cheer for and LIKE. :-)


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