O’Hara. Katniss Everdeen. Michael Hosea. Jane Eyre. Do you recognize any of
these names? Obviously, they are all characters from books. And yes, they are
all heroes. But before they were
heroic, they were flawed and fallible. These frail, imperfect, unlikely
paragons struggled with weaknesses in their character—like serious
flaws—vanity, envy, fear, jealousy, and pride, just to name a few! But instead
of turning the reader off, their failings made these characters relatable, and
oh, so memorable.
heroine in my latest novel, Cheryl Cooper, is likewise afflicted (Where Hope Dwells, Guideposts 2015).
Instead of being smart, savvy, and self-confident, Cheryl struggles with a less
than perfect self-image, and she hides a bitter secret—unforgiveness toward the
man who left her standing at the altar. So when circumstances thrust her into
an Amish community, in the middle of an investigation into a kidnapping, Cheryl
is quite certain she is not the
person for the job…or is she?
often, the books I write have a theme that coordinates with something I am
facing in my personal life. No, I haven’t recently been left standing at the
altar. Nor have I ever been the lead investigator into a kidnapping. But I have
battled with unforgiveness, and like Cheryl, I could not see the bitterness in
myself, yet I readily saw it in the people around me. These two things are what
prompted me to tackle the tough issue of forgiveness—both in the church, and
outside it in our circle of friends.
Bethany House, 2014
example is from my last historical romantic suspense, Tide and Tempest. Like Cheryl, the main character, Tillie McGrath, has
developed a sense of unworthiness that stems from personal choices she made as
a girl. The consequences of these actions not only led to an unplanned
pregnancy, they led to the loss of her child and murder of the man she loved. Thankfully,
while these circumstances do not exactly mirror mine, I can say that I
understand what it means to lose a child. The grief, guilt, and sorrow that I
poured into Tillie sprang from my own experience after the death of my son—as
do the healing, strength and victory that she claims by tale’s end.
that what makes characters in books so endearing? Don’t we hope that these
beloved friends for a time will somehow be better than we are ourselves? We
want their circumstances to be different. We want their person to be somehow improved.
And we want our own lives to reflect what we have read.
believe the best books—and the most memorable characters—are the ones that
reflect something about ourselves—not just in our ugliness, but in our striving
toward godliness. Their story urges us toward victory, and encourages us to
believe in the strength of our character and power of our Creator to overcome.
Their message is healing and hopeful, even if at first, the words we read
remind us of our lack. And they linger in our conscience—these beloved books—the
pages dog-eared and wrinkled where something we read touched or challenged us.
prayer is that the names of my characters will someday be added to the list of
those that readers count as memorable. That they will linger…and that they will
help someone else overcome the failure inside.
BIO: Elizabeth Ludwig is the bestselling author of Christmas Comes to Bethlehem, Maine and
the highly successful Edge of Freedom
series from Bethany House Publishers. Her popular literary blog, The Borrowed
Book, enjoys a wide readership. Elizabeth is an accomplished speaker and
teacher, often attending conferences and seminars where she lectures on editing
for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful
editor/agent interviews. Along with her husband and children, she makes her
home in the great state of Texas. To learn more, visit ElizabethLudwig.com.