Why Are We Still Held to The Unrealistic Standards of Today’s Literary Characters?

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I don’t want to feel bad about being human, I want to look up to my favourite characters and see at least a little bit of me in them.

Reading is where you both find yourself and lose yourself. It is a way of travelling around the world without moving, living 50 different lives without dying, getting to know things that you would, otherwise, be ignorant of. And, of course, as a consequence of all this, books shape our minds and transform us into different human beings, maybe even a better version of ourselves.

This all came to mind when, last night, having finished my latest book I came to the realization that reading, while being one of my favourite things to do, has caused me so much grief because of today’s unrealistic standards in literary characters. I won’t point fingers to any author in particular since I don’t have the power to do so, but I do wonder:

When did it become okay for writers to create characters that are so perfect?

For me a good character is always the one that is relatable, that doesn’t mean being absolutely perfect. It means making them with faults.

We human beings can be greedy, selfish, proud, envious, lazy, and more, which means that these characteristics should be found in books too. Books should teach us how human traits are also what make characters – or people – sublime.

Mary Lennox, Eva Luna, Howl are some examples of flawed characters that end up making the most wonderful people.  I don’t want to read about someone that is the kindest, best looking and the most intelligent person ever; I want someone down to earth to make me feel like we can all be the heroes of our own story.

When I look back at some of the books I have read this year, I can’t help but be disappointed.

Good writing combined with a bad character can shutter a book, and that’s exactly what it did for me. Bookworms want to read about someone normal that has doubts and fears, that makes decisions based on what they feel – even out of selfishness. We don’t want to feel bad about being human. The aim should be to look up to our favourite characters and see at least a little bit of ourselves in them.

At the end of the day reading is very subjective and what I consider a bad character can be someone’s cup of tea, which is what makes the literary world so diverse and exciting.

But for me, I will be looking out for those characters that make me feel like I am the best version of myself, faults included.

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