We recently welcomed a new member to our household: a shelter cat named Tiberius. We weren’t in the market for another cat; we were happy with just two. But I went to PetCo to buy some litter, gave in to the impulse to look at the adoptable cats, and fell immediately in love with this beefy, thick-necked fellow.
At PetCo, Tiberius was super chill. I mean, a really mellow dude. In retrospect, he might have been depressed, or maybe just exhausted by the endless parade of people past his kennel. Whatever the case, he fell asleep in my arms the first time I picked him up, and I expected that he would be the ultimate lap cat.
When we got him home, though, Tibby—as he quickly became known—perked up considerably. Perked up, and wigged out. It turns out Tibby is a hot mess of a cat.
In the few weeks we’ve had him, he’s gotten his head stuck in a bag (which held tantalizing tortilla chips), pulled our George Foreman grill off the counter, broken every cat toy in the house, and developed a problem with flatulence.
That’s right. We adopted a gassy cat. It’s just . . . wow. He’s a really, really gassy cat.
This wee beastie we brought into our lives is a walking disaster, but somehow that’s made us love him even more.
Tibby’s endearing flaws have led me to think about the appeal of imperfection, in humans as well as animals. Perfect people, like perfect pets, inspire admiration. But there’s something about goofy, dorky, silly, wounded, fragile, damaged people that inspires something deeper. I’m reminded of a song from The King and I called “Something Wonderful”:
This is a man who thinks with his heart,
and his heart is not always wise.
This is a man who stumbles and falls,
But this is a man who tries.
This is a man you’ll forgive and forgive,
And help and protect, as long as you live . . .
As an author, this is an important lesson. Creating characters that readers will love, characters they’ll connect with, is a challenge, and one of the keys to that challenge is creating characters who have their share of flaws.
What do you think? Who are your favorite characters and what are their flaws?