One Writer’s Journey

January 3, 2014

Kintsugi: What It Means for Flawed Characters

This piece of Kintsugi is for sale at thefairypond.com.

Recently, I read about kintsugi on The Crooked Book. In this Japanese art, broken pottery is mended with gold-colored resin. As you can see, it takes a piece of nice pottery up to extraordinary.

When I read manuscripts for newer writers, their characters are often perfect — smart, attractive and talented. They are the golden boys and golden girls walking the halls of their various high schools. When trouble comes their way, it is never their fault and you never doubt for a moment that they are going to prevail. That are just too perfect to fail. Think of them as the bowl, unbroken.

Then there are the books that I read with the shattered characters. They are suffering following the death of a parent or friend. They are coping with debilitating illnesses. They may be angry, lashing out at others or quietly self-destructive. At the end of the story, they haven’t changed or grown in any way. ”That’s in book 2,” the author cheerfully tells me. These characters are the broken bowls, unmended. They are most likely going to be swept into the dust pan and thrown away because without change or growth they’ve become tedious.

Readers want characters who are like this kintsugi bowl. We can see that they are flawed and imperfect, but we can see that they have also made an attempt by the end of the story to pull themselves together. Maybe they fail at their ultimate task, but they have changed. They have grown. We have hope. That’s the character that finds a place on the shelves of readers.

–SueBE

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