Fear in Writing: Imperfect Beauty in Writing

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Friday, February 5, 2010

Imperfect Beauty in Writing

I am a Pollock girl.  A Kandinsky lover.  A fan of Arshile Gorky.  Result: Abstract Expressionism calls to me.

But the other day I was skipping around the Internet (truly, I was skipping--all hopsy and bright-eyed) when I came to this beautiful vision you see to the left.  The eyes captured me and I couldn't turn away.  The mouth glowed in its rosy plumpness.  And the sheen of the skin told me this was a creature of unique existence.

The artist is Lisa Scherer.  She paints on benches and other various canvas and there is an otherworldy feeling to her angels.  Yes, this beautiful lady is an angel.  Could you guess from the glowing skin and the peaceful eyes?

But there is more...Note the wide nose and full face.  Her eyes are almonds, but not perfect.  Her mouth is full, but not completely symmetrical.  None of us are perfect, and this angelic vision of beauty isn't either.  And I love that.

Still I am captivated by her crystal-blue eyes, and I wonder, do we captivate our readers this way?  In mystery/suspense, our characters are far from perfect.  My MC is a detective who once committed murder.  He now must keep this secret in order to keep his freedom, but his inner conflict is that he knows he is guilty.  He is imperfect, and yet I must make my readers relate and even love him.

How do you weave imperfect beauty into your writing?  Do you strive for gorgeous locations marred by crime or danger?  Do you create characters who try and try to do the right thing, but stumble along the way?

None of our characters may be as angelic as Scherer's art, but surely they still share this: glory in their imperfection.

(Tomorrow is Awards Saturday, so be sure to stop by for prizes!  Thanks, friends.)

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  1. She looks full of something but it ain't mischief! I look forward to seeing more of Lisa's work. Wonder if she does some devils too! Yes, flaws are the art in my way of thinking - we can't care about a perfect person, too static - we long to connect to the one who won't hear our pleas who blithely goes forward like the fool in the tarot deck with no concern with the cliff ahead.

  2. Thanks Michele. I am glad my angel was of use here in getting your point across.

    I have been working on a historical romance and while the heroine and hero are both beautiful people, I gave them flaws to make them seem more human. He is headstrong, has a scar down his neck, and has nervous quirks. She is also headstrong and has fears. I think weaknesses make the characters stronger, like in real life. It’s easy to go overboard with flaws though, and easy not to have enough flaws .

    Nice post.

  3. My main character is arrogant and aloof, and I had to scale back one scene to keep him likeable. But his genuine need for approval and acceptance help balance his negative attributes.

  4. The last one - my characters usually try to do the right thing and stumble - but with the help of friends and thier own inner strength, they get up and try again.

  5. That is very neat. And how true.

  6. Jan- Ah, the cliff. Angels have stood on many cliffs and looked down into the abyss. And then they rise above, just like our heroes/heroines!

    SchererArt- She writes, too! Is there anything you don't do? Good point about going overboard. You definitely did not do that with this angel.

    Alex- And also give him depth. Good job scaling yourself back--it's hard to be self-critical sometimes.

    Diane- That really fits your readership. We don't want to tell young adults they are inherently flawed. (But it sure is fun to create characters who are!)

  7. Thank you, Nisa. Check out more of her art! Do you write as well?

  8. Oh, yes. Imperfect beauty is perfection in fiction. I'm bored by the too-perfect character. Give me problems, hidden flaws, weaknesses, and struggle, and I'm golden.

    Course, my own characters are always deeply flawed and conflicted. Let's not talk about what that predilection means...

  9. I don't know about you, but I have trouble relating to someone who is perfect. (Perfection is also a bit boring.) I think you've hit it on the head -- it's much more fun to read (and write) about characters who sometimes have to struggle to do the right thing.

  10. Your book can actually be totally imperfect, and there will still be readers. Believe me, every book has its readers. But what you always need is at least some strong quality which will captivate your readers. Whether it's your perfect talent for creating unique and appealing characters, or you talent for plotting unusual story twists, or your talent for creating a truly magical setting, or your talent for developing stunning descriptions .... it doesn't matter, you just need something strong enough, something coming from the very soul of your personality, that will captivate and capture your readers. Just like this picture which captivated you with those eyes.

  11. What a beautiful piece, angel or no angel, she is compelling. Writing compelling characters isn't easy. I am currently doing my best to bring my protagonist to life, I don't want her to seem all bad, she's just does bad things and can't seem to understand the havoc she wreaks.

  12. Lovely! My characters are definitely flawed - and they're a lot of fun to write about :)

  13. Yes, amazing pic.
    For my Nano main character I created a pic of what she looked like at the beginning and another of what she looked like at the end. It's easier to have a visual to creat words from.[for me]

  14. Great post and amazing painting!

    I just welcomed myself to the world of blogging, and holy cow you can get lost in this stuff. I should be editing and revising my MS for the bazillionth time, but instead I find my self blog hopping slash blog stalking random people I don't know.

    The good news is that I am finding so many fabulous writers in the process. Writing can be such a lonely occupation, but I now see it doesn't have to be!!

    Stop by and check my new blog out. (Beware. It's very new) I'll be following you to see what other great things you have to offer.