"....How then does it have tares?"
This is to be a piece to be taken in conjunction with Bree's post "The Impossible Male Character." Seeing as the thoughts of my mind are only confusing always, I hope rather than believe I can make myself make sense. You have stood with me thus far: I think we can make shift of it.
the greater the virtue, the greater the vice
I had begun to notice this in my characters, doubly so when Bree sent her post live on the impossible male character. I manage not to fall into that trap of having characters be too good, or of having characters be too bad. The trick I have discovered is in taking a virtue (love is the most profound among these) and twisting it so that it becomes a vice. The stronger the virtue, the greater the vice it becomes. My characters tend to be big, bold, larger-than-life kinds of people: their virtues and their vices tend to be large also. But the interesting part, for myself as the writer, lies in the subtle line that distinguishes virtue from vice. One character of mine loves a lady - he genuinely loves her, and I think that became most clear to me when someone mentioned a dangerous activity and he caught himself making a very slight but very telltale gesture as if to protect her. Beneath a weight of ambition, hatred, pride, and self-worth, he loves her. But even "the ploughing of the wicked" is a sin, and his charity is not redeemed by being, in its way, sincere. Therein lies the subtlety.
that line is very thin
You are probably acquainted with Rich Mullins' song "We're Not As Strong As We Think We Are." It is a very profound song and paints man as he stands, at the cusp of dust and heaven, wrenched by his mingled nature and his fallen estate.
we are frail
we are fearfully and wonderfully made
forged in the fires of human passion
choking on the fumes of selfish rage
and with these our hells and our heavens
so few inches apart
we must be awfully small
and not as strong as we think we are
Perhaps the bigger the character, the easier it is to see this. I can think of a strength for each of my characters which, in a moment, can become their downfall. Dignity becomes pride, justice lacks mercy, forbearance becomes sullen. And on the flip-side of these degradations of virtues, you have the rough and the ready and the sons of thunder whom you might look at and think, "You lack such charity, such grace of presentment - how can you be redeemed?" when often they are the ones closest to the kingdom of heaven. On the one hand you have a man like Uzzah, an historical figure, whose quickness to steady the ark of the covenant looked like care, but was actually irreverence; on the other you have a man like Samson, who was full of the boastful pride of life, but whom God heard and answered at the last when his blind eyes had come to see the nature of his God more clearly.
the kingdom of heaven is like...
Bree was right when she said you cannot make characters too perfect or too imperfect. You cannot simply load down a character with faults and flaws to escape the danger of making him too good for this earth. We are each a universe of lawful and lawless factions constantly at war, which are not always wearing the colours we expect them too. Great grace can easily be misused, small faith can move great mountains. When you go to write your characters, and you take care not to make them too perfect and to mix their flaws with sense, keep in mind this also: even the most temperate and steady-going virtues can turn in a moment into sin, and that the smallest, the basest, the lowliest spirits will one day inherit the kingdom of heaven.