Sunday, February 1, 2015

Why Mary Poppins Should Die

I spent yesterday reading the galley proofs of my May 26 release, the third book in my Twelve Kingdoms series, The Talon of the Hawk. On the first page that had a line break, my production editor left me this highly professional note - that made me burst out laughing. The sword symbol IS totally awesome. I just love this book. Which is fortunate, as it's 438 pages long and I'm exactly halfway through. Guess what I'm doing today, also?

Fortunately the midpoint is exactly where and what I thought it would be, so that's nice to know.

Our topic this week in the bordello is how the development of flaws (negative traits) build better heroes. I looked back at our original list of topic brainstorming, ready to pick on one of the guys for only specifying "heroes," but this one came from the lovely Linda Robertson. So now I'm not sure if she meant it to be only heroes or if she neglected to say both heroes and heroines. I even texted her to ask, but she has not replied...

Normally I wouldn't make that big a deal of how to interpret a topic. After all, it's not like we have Word-Whores police showing up to knock us around for straying off topic. (Which is fortunate for Marshall Ryan Maresca, who totally punted on the topic last week in favor of manfully squeeing about the release of his debut novel, Thorn of Dentonhill, on Tuesday. All things considered, he gets a bye on that one.)

Still, I'm dwelling on this because I have a real problem with the pervasive double-standard that our heroes in genre fiction are made more interesting for their flaws, while our heroines are expected to be practically perfect in every way.

Mary Poppins could pull it off. But her character's been done, so let's move on.

(After some online discussion, I feel I should caveat that Mary Poppins doesn't really count as she's not a protagonist. She's more a force of nature who inspires change in others. She herself does not change. Onward!)

 More than one reviewer has noted that I always write flawed characters. As in saying things like, "even among Kennedy's typically flawed characters, this one stands out." It's funny to me because, in one sense, I don't set out to always write flawed characters, but on the other hand, OF COURSE I WRITE FLAWED CHARACTERS.


See, I'm a character-driven writer. I write stories about people, what they suffer and how they change. I want my characters to be as real as possible, which means - yes! - they absolutely are flawed. Human beings are flawed. That's what makes us who we are. I'd argue that we're more accurately and dynamically defined by our flaws than by our virtues. Our flaws are what we struggle with, what we strive to overcome. And we all know that the whole point of telling a story is to show how characters change. If they have no flaws to overcome, wounds to heal, what kind of interesting change can there be?

In writing The Talon of the Hawk, I struggled with this. My heroine, Ursula, is a warrior princess and heir to the High Throne. Readers have been looking forward to her story because she IS such a badass. She carries a great big sword and is an almost supernaturally proficient fighter. (In her book, we find out why, too!) It was tempting to make her perfect. She's so good at so many things and it's fun to be with a character like that, who can kick ass in ways that I can't.


Ursula isn't perfect. Because no one is. She's hard-headed and stubbornly loyal - both a strength and a curse for her. She's wounded and carries the strain of being the eldest, of always trying to protect her sisters and her subjects. If she can't overcome those flaws and wounds, her story is doomed to end badly.

Which is the whole point. 


  1. ...ready to pick on one of the guys for only specifying "heroes,"...

    Ha! I'd argue "heroes" has evolved to be like "actors" ... gender neutral, (especially for the sake of the programming calendar!).

  2. I will confess I have thrown books with a perfect heroine across the room in total dislike. I need flawed heroines!
    If a character (male or female) is perfect, I can't relate. I need a connection to one of the more important characters in a book or I don't care about the story. (Yes: Snape was the character that kept me reading Harry Potter, because Harry is totally uninteresting imo.)

    1. Ha! This is why you and I get along so well. But you're absolutely right, that the flaws make a character relatable. Excellent point. :-)

  3. Ami is a great flawed character, even after she morphs and becomes the new Amelia she is flawed but in new ways. Your characters just keep getting better and better!

    1. aww.... thanks Lexi!! she cracks me up in TALON :-)