Writing a Strong Broken Character

A couple months ago I finished writing a romantic comedy that is close to my heart for a few different reasons. If you have read any of my books you know they are not just about romance and happy endings (even though they definitely have both) but they normally touch on something a bit heavier, sometimes darker.

This one is no exception. I wanted to write a character who is being emotionally blackmailed. This was an important subject for me because it’s something I experienced personally. I had always considered myself a strong woman. Not the most assertive one, but emotionally strong. Until the day I discovered I had been manipulated by someone I considered my best friend at the time. Worse even this had been going on for years. I lived in a state of confusion and hurt without a clue of who or what was making me so miserable.

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Emotional blackmailers use traits of your personality (good qualities more often than not) against you. In my case, she used the fact I would do just about anything to help and/or defend a friend and turned it into a weapon against me. She also used the fact I choose to believe the best about people to make herself believable in my eyes. She was the victim, the one that needed help, everyone was out to get her. And I ate it up even when my conscience and common sense told me there was something wrong with her stories and/or her attitude.

When I began writing this story I wanted my main male character (who in romance are kind of expected to be alpha males) to be a victim of emotional blackmail. As I wrote the story I had the suspicion I was making him look weak, which was not at all my intention. Strength has nothing to do with this. The most put together, emotionally stable person can be the victim of one of these predators. Because make no mistake, these are predators as ruthless as any other.

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I submitted the manuscript thinking that I would get it back with the comment, “he comes across as weak”. I was right. That’s exactly what happened. So now I’m faced with the challenge of portraying someone who has been “broken” by his girlfriend but still seems strong and capable–which he really is. Not an easy task but I have all confidence I’m on the right track. I agonized over it when I was writing it the first time, I’m agonizing over it now as I revise it. I want to be true and fair to my MMC and not make him look like the weakling he is not.

I’m hoping I can make my guy just as strong and awesome as he is broken and confused. Have you ever have to write a character like that? What did you do to balance his state of mind with his personal strengths?

 

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5 thoughts on “Writing a Strong Broken Character

  1. I am no writer so can’t really help you here but I am a beta reader. The fine line between being weak and being manipulated is when someone is selfless and care so much for others that he would do everything to make them happy. If you show that he knows this but does it willingly because it comes from the bottom of his heart he is not being weak as he knows the risk. He may end broken yet can rebound. If he grows, if he learns without getting bitter but drawing lessons then that’s not being weak. That’s being courageous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I revised the whole manuscript since then and I think I’ve fixed that vexing area. I’m hoping the changes make him look stronger because I love him so much. He’s my kind of guy: selfless, responsible, always ready to accept the consequences of his acts. He was “going along” with it because he thought it was his responsibility to do so and when she threatened him with something else something snapped. I think that’s when he first realized he was not doing himself or her any favors by marrying her out of a sense of duty. And he did grow (after the revision) and somehow avoided becoming bitter over it. Thank you so much for your comment.

      Like

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