My Characters Have Ayn Rand Syndrome…

Huh?  What does that mean?  Ayn Rand syndrome?

It means that all of my “good characters” are good-looking, healthy, fit, etc. and all of my “bad characters” are overweight or ugly or somehow physically flawed.  (With the exception of characters inspired by someone I knew in real life.)

Now, granted, I’m not much of one for describing my characters, so this isn’t glaringly obvious to a reader.  But I know what I think my characters look like and I realized that none of them have weird tics or quirks like people do in real life.

All you have to do is look around a bit to realize that few if any people are without some little quirk or flaw.  People are overweight or skinny, too tall or too short.  Old, young.  Many aren’t particularly attractive.  They’re not unattractive per se but definitely not memorable for their looks.

So, real life has all this variety, but the characters I write are generally average to well-built and probably a 7 or 8 looks-wise on a scale of ten.  They aren’t annoying.  They’re all reasonably intelligent, even the bad guys.  They get things the first time they’re told them.

All above average.

And I’m definitely not unique in this.  It’s rare to read a book where characters have any pronounced flaws or where the main character is truly ugly in some way.

Personally, I think part of the reason my characters are that way is because if I’m going to spend a substantial amount of time writing about someone I want them to be appealing to me.  I don’t want to spend 300 pages with a narcissistic ass or a slovenly idiot.

And most readers probably don’t either.  So, even if I had it in me to write a character like that, I might not be able to find an audience willing to read about that character.

There’s a whole range of people that don’t get written about because of this.  The awkward, the strange, the misfits, the different ones.  Or the people who defy stereotypes like the overweight hero.  (You do get the attractive villain quite often, because they’re still at least attractive.)

It’s something to think about…

Not sure it’ll actually lead to me changing my characters because they kind of come to me fully formed.  But at least I’ll be aware of it and maybe tweak things a bit here or there.  And, who knows?  Now that I’ve thought about it maybe some character will present him or herself, flaws and all, and demand to tell their story.

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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