Guest Post by Emily Suess of Suess’s Pieces.
If you’ve ever taken a course in fiction, you’ve probably heard the maxim “character is plot, plot is character.” It’s a rather succinct way of saying that when you create a well-developed character with a conflicting personal flaw, the flaw will sort of automagically* drive your story’s plot. But flaws do more than help authors create a nice story line.
For example, take Sherlock Holmes. He really is brilliant when it comes to the art of deduction. But without his drug addiction, he’s almost too smart and too brilliant to be very likable. His druggie behavior gives him depth and keeps most us from hating his guts. We think to ourselves, Holmes is imperfect like me. I’m imperfect like Holmes. Therefore, I love Holmes.
This is how it happens. The characters make us fall in love with the books. But the flaws are what make us fall in love with the characters.
This same character-plus-flaw match-up is also the driving force behind some really successful blogs and websites. Whether the blog authors planned to use their flaws for profit from the beginning or whether they’re operating in complete oblivion, I can’t say. What I can say is that when good bloggers exploit their flaws—wittingly or unwittingly—they can become great bloggers.
Let me illustrate my point with a few examples of what you might call ‘celebrity bloggers’ and their character flaws:
Erika Napoletano is a sadist, God love her. In her ongoing series of ‘Bitch Slap’ posts, Napoletano calls out her audience for everything from accepting plagiarism to capitulating to their fears. She’s terse, blunt and prone to swearing, and you can’t help but think that she enjoys it all just a little too much. Still, people are drawn by the thousands to her unorthodox and totally no-nonsense style.
If I had to guess, I’d say that Heather B. Armstrong was voted Most Likely to Overshare in high school. Her major claim to fame is that she wrote about her job and her colleagues on her blog and then got fired because of it. She publishes her children’s full names, openly writes about breast pumps, and has no qualms gabbing about her personal experiences on anti-depressants and how they affected her sex drive. She writes like the entire internet is her best friend and (most) people love that about her.
Chris Brogan is a know-it-all. When he announced to the world that he was leaving Facebook and offering a webinar on how businesses should use Google+ just three weeks after its launch, half the internet was like “Wha-what?” Plenty of people secretly admired the guy for having the chutzpah to declare himself the expert of a project still in beta, and the rest couldn’t help but watch and wonder, Who does this guy think he is?
I know this analogy could stand to be tidied up a bit. And I know I’m rushing the end of this post, but here’s my point: The world loves bloggers with flaws. If we want to be better bloggers, maybe we should think about embracing our flaws instead of trying to cover them up.
Maybe we’ve been doing it wrong. Everyone and his mother is preaching to us about establishing ourselves as experts within our niche. But part of me thinks I’d have better luck if I just told the world the truth and confessed my fatal flaw. I don’t have a clue what I’m doing with my blog, but I keep posting anyway.
What do you think? Can you embrace your flaws?
*automagically – It is a word too.
Emily Suess is a freelance writer and the very flawed author of the general interest blog, Suess’s Pieces.