The interesting discussion about Marguerite St. Just in the follow up comments to my post on the Scarlet Pimpernel got me to thinking about imperfect characters. I’ve always found flawed characters much more interesting than the more convetionally heroic sort. Growing up, Milady de Winter was my favorite character in “The Three Musketeers ” (I thought Constance was boring), I couldn’t understand why Lucie Manette looked twice at Charles Darnay when Sydney Carton was around, I much preferred Mary Crawford to Fanny Price.
Sydney Carton redeems himself by sacrificing his life, Milady ends up executed, Mary Crawford loses Edmund to virtuous Fanny. But Marguerite St. Just is a heroine who gets a happily-ever-after ending. And yet, as JMM points out in the comments on the Scarlet Pimpernel thread, Marguerite can be manipulative and flirtatious, and admits she married her husband at least in part for his fortune and position. As Sarah says in the same thread, “In TSP, Marguerite is very young and self-centred – she even manages to turn Armand’s beating into her own humiliation – but she is a strong character – and believable.” And I think it’s her very flaws that make her believable.
When I began to plot “Secrets of a Lady”, I knew Mélanie would be a somewhat risky heroine in that she makes choices that are decidedly morally ambiguous (as do a number of characters in the book). One friend who saw early pages of the book found Mélanie thoroughly unsympathetic. Another couldn’t imagine how the story could possibly have a happy ending. I tried hard in writing the book to show the forces that shaped Mélanie and the reasons she made the choices she did. But I also tried not to make excuses for her, just as Mélanie never makes excuses for herself. One of the reasons I love writing about her is that I’m never quite sure what she’ll do in a given situation or how far she’ll go.
How do you feel about flawed characters? Any particular favorites? Is there a line characters cross for you that goes from “flawed by sympathetic” to “irredeemable”?
If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out my guest blogs on the Avon Romance Blog and Romantic Inks. And take a look at the Fraser Correspondence, where I’ve just posted Charles’s thoughts on new fatherhood.