Why I Hate Perfect People (in Books)

Posted on March 10, 2014 at 3:45 PM


Maybe it’s the bitch in me, but I hate reading books where the hero and heroine are perfectly good and the villain is completely bad to the bone. In fact, there seems to be a positive epidemic of this going on at the moment – maybe it’s in reaction to the stroppy heroines of chick-lit, maybe it’s because the world seems to be going to hell in a hand basket and people are searching for absolutes.

Whatever is causing this need for perfectly identifiable goodies and baddies, I wish it would stop before I find myself throwing yet another book across the room in disgust. This is a very bad practice, especially for someone reading on her tablet….We all have little (or big) flaws. When I come across a heroine who is so lovely she never thinks a mean thought, never challenges anyone else, never has a bad hair day, never is without a winsome smile and a plate of homemade cookies, well – immediate turn off.                 


Heroes written to be so, well, heroic – no thanks. Those big, strong, silent types, wonderfully patient and indulgent to the heroine, selfless, manly, broad chested, and completely fart-free – I ask you, who could possibly stay in love with  Mr. Perfect?                                

Then there are the totally mean, verging on positively psycho villains. Most of whose behaviour is clinically psychotic. No matter what you might think from television, there aren’t that many nutzoids running around – the highest figure is probably one in a hundred. Not every fictional villain can be one. And all this with no hint as to why they behave this way. Believe it or not, even psychopaths can demonstrate a reason for the terrible things they do. At least in their way of thinking, their actions are rational, even if the rest of the ‘normal’ world thinks them total fruitloops. Usually, too, there is something in their backgrounds that triggers the behavior, whatever side of the nature/nurture debate you might be on. It would be nice if this was hinted at in the stories.

You see, these characters are just not real. Sure, we want larger than life characters in our novels, but they also need to be people we can identify with. People we can understand. People who don’t make us feel so inferior because we do have bad hair days, don’t bake cookies and sometimes cuss a little…

I spent years covering the criminal courts and the crime beat as a journalist, and then worked as a counsellor, so I say this with some measure of authority: The truth is no-one is all bad or all good. So why should we write about perfect people?

Please, please can we have heroes and heroines with flaws? Villains with a touch of humanity? I’m not asking for every story to be as boring as the real life we’re often reading to escape from, but give me real characters, people I can like or at least understand why I hate them.

Okay, putting away my soapbox now. Thanks for listening!


Categories: Writing Skills, The Writing Life

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