When I was in the third grade, I was obsessed with the Flintstones. Every morning before school, my mom woke me up an hour early to watch back to back episodes. I had her place my tape recorder next to the TV to voice record the episodes that came on during the school day. No picture, only sound, but that was okay because I was a Flintstones fanatic.
During every episode, I cheered for Fred, as I watched him get into impossible predicaments. I always felt a little sorry for him. His life was an uphill battle, but he persevered and usually managed to come out on top.
When I create a character, I often think about Fred and the obstacles he had to overcome. In order for my readers to sympathize with my protagonist, they must root for him to succeed. Fred wasn’t perfect. He often did things that were wrong, but that was okay because his motives were admirable. He was a hard worker who provided for his family.
A character that is handsome, kind to children, donates all of his money to charity, never drives over the speed limit or never gets upset is perfect. He has nowhere to go and no way to grow. I don’t feel sympathetic concern because he can handle anything. I’d rather save my sympathy for someone who deserves it.
While reading, it’s difficult for me to connect to a perfect character, since I’m far from perfect. A perfect character is boring to read. As a writer, I don’t want readers to get bored and I don’t want them to pity my characters or think of them as wimps. Characters that only suffer and whine are not sympathetic, they’re pathetic.
My goal is to make the reader become one with my characters. I must show their flaws to make them human. When they do something bad, the reader understands why they’re acting this way. While most episodes of the Flintstones portrayed Fred as a character full of flaws, to me he appeared human. Each episode he faced difficulties and struggles, but he always left work with a happy, “Yabba-Dabba Do!”