Give me the seven deadly sins…please?

*Originally posted here*

Between the discussions about realistic heroines on RTB, various blogs and SBTB I don’t have anything more to add, but something Candy mentioned in her review of Karen Ranney’s book, TO LOVE A SCOTTISH LORD, made me stop and go…whuh? Not because she was wrong, but because it was so true:


Does [the heroine] have some adorable yet meaningless flaw, like, ohhhh, a fear of stairs and heights that she overcomes to treat Hamish? Check.

I hate adorable yet meaningless flaws, and yet they are all over the place.

Men in romances have flaws (often, it is the Hi, I’m An Asshole, And I’m Going To Treat You Like A Worthless Slut flaw) but women…well, they are quirky. Isinnit cute?

Okay, so I don’t always hate these flaws—sometimes they make me laugh, and they can be really fun. But they aren’t flaws. Flaws should be somehow linked to the seven deadly sins (but in a non-religious way). Got a heroine who is greedy? Now that’s a flaw, and if you make me understand her, and make the hero love her despite that, then I’m one happy reader. Got a heroine who is proud and arrogant? Ditto. Who gets jealous easily? Is vain? Yep. Someone who isn’t honest with herself because it is easier than the alternative? Check.

Now, I’m not talking about people who are deservedly proud of themselves, or greedy because they actually deserve to be greedy (they were starved/poverty-stricken) but are flawed to a fault. They hurt people by exercising their particular flaw—and not in a deliberate, nasty way, but in an “Oh, I didn’t realize that I was so screwed up” way. Like Oedipus, but without the nasty mother humping and the eye-gouging and the dooming all of your offspring.

I want flaws that actually have to be worked through in a relationship, or worked around, or something that makes the flaw more than just an exercise in showing how perfect the heroine is (conquering the fear of heights to play doctor with the hero). I want strengths and weaknesses—and not just weaknesses like: I’m a wimpy-ass doormat, and I finally stand up for myself at the end of the book! or, I think I look like a toad, but then I realize I’m beautiful at the end of the book! (Those are issues, not flaws—if a heroine is treated like an ugly stepsister her entire life, of course she’s going to have a skewed self-image, and hurrah for her working through that, but is that the only problem she has? Bleh.)

Fear of heights isn’t a character flaw—and I want character flaws with some bite to them.