Guest Post ARC Giveaway: The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes

March 18, 2014 Giveaway, Guest Post 37

Guest Post   ARC Giveaway: The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes

by Paula Stokes

Hey guys! I’ve been super excited to share with you all a guest post today with the amazing author, and one of my favorites, Paula Stokes! I’ve finished up her Secrets of the Eternal Rose series (as Fiona Paul) and now I’m crazy excited to finally read The Art of Lainey! When I talked with Paula about what kind of guest post she’d want to do and this topic came up, it was instantly a winner. I always find it interesting to see how fellow readers will respond to a character’s flaws. And it really does vary from person to person. So without further ado…

Writing Flawed Characters

Hi, I’m Paula 🙂 You might know me as Fiona Paul, the pen name I used when I was writing the Secrets of the Eternal Rose books for Paper Lantern Lit. I love those books, but I love my solo stories even more. A big hug to Sara and my favorite white tiger for letting me do a guest post and giveaway here on Forever 17 Books.

Here’s a deep dark secret: I don’t find a lot of main characters to be very interesting. Some of that is because being an author means knowing just how many books release every month, so I’ve gotten pickier and more demanding with my reads. Some of that is because a lot of authors craft their main characters to have mass appeal so that it will be easy for readers to insert themselves into the MC’s shoes.

Although I understand that strategy as a marketing tool, I have always preferred reading books about flawed characters. This is probably because (deep dark secret #2) even though I think I’m a pretty cool chick, I have a lot of flaws—and not just the fake ones I trot out at job interviews. It’s easier for me to relate to characters who aren’t perfect.

The main character in The Art of Lainey is Lainey Mitchell, a seventeen-year-old girl who grew up in a loving middle-class family. Lainey is pretty, popular, and athletic. She has it pretty good and she knows it. I didn’t consciously mean for her to start out as superficial or self-absorbed, but I had read a string of contemporary novels for research where the MCs were mostly these quirky, intellectual outsiders and I just wanted to explore the opposite extreme—to peek behind the curtain of the so-called “popular girl.” I knew plenty of girls in high school who seemingly had it all, but underneath the surface they had the same doubts and insecurities as everyone else. So that was my original intent—to show that even the kids who appear to living charmed lives probably worry about all the same things as the bookish wallflowers or Goths or geeks or whatever cliques happen to be present at your school.

But I didn’t want to make Lainey pretty and popular and athletic as well as nice and smart and thoughtful, because then she would start feeling like a too-perfect Mary Sue character. So as the book evolved, I just let Lainey be Lainey and her flaws came out in her behavior. It turned out she was a little bit clueless about things that really mattered. She worried about her looks and her popularity and what other people thought. She was celebrity-obsessed and her main goals were all about having fun during her senior year without a lot of thought to college afterward.

Allowing your character to have these traits is risky. At one point, Lainey admits that she doesn’t read a lot, unless gossip magazines count. In a couple of scenes, she gets overdramatic, to the point of being a little rude to her friends or coworkers. Instead of creating a character of mass appeal for all readers to relate to, I wrote an MC that initially didn’t have much in common with the reading public. I loved her, but I wasn’t sure how she would be received.

So far, most readers start out a little exasperated by her but grow to love her as they gain access to her head and her heart, which was exactly my intent. I learned a lot about creating compelling flawed characters while writing and editing Lainey. Here are my tips:

  1. Make character flaws fit with the rest of their identity.

Because Lainey grew up fairly privileged, it fits that she would obsess over “first-world problems” or superficial things. Because most of her success has come via public approval, like playing varsity soccer and being chosen to star in a commercial, it makes sense that she would care a lot what other people think. Because she’s really into TV and movies (and later, theater) it works for her to be a little too dramatic at times.

  1. Make flaws moderate.

First-draft Lainey was a little too snarky, shallow and boy-obsessed. Editors hated her. Even my own agent, who loved her, said there were a couple of places where Lainey needed to get slapped or go die in a fire.  Book Lainey starts out more like Cher from Clueless. She’s looks-obsessed and a little shallow, but she’s still a good person underneath, and this comes through early in the story. If she were callous and cruel (like her friend Kendall can sometimes be) it would be a lot harder for readers to want to live in her headspace.

  1. Give flawed characters some endearing traits too.

Lainey is funny, feisty, and fiercely loyal to her friends. She generally recognizes when she steps over the line, and when people call her on her questionable behavior she doesn’t dismiss them without thinking about what they have to say.  She wants to be better, but she struggles to separate the person she planned on becoming from the person she’s meant to be, and therein lies a lot of the book’s conflict. At times it’s very much a Lainey vs. Lainey story. [Spoiler: Lainey wins! :D]

  1. Give them awesome friends.

There’s no way someone as lovely and self-actualized as Bianca would stay friends with Lainey if Lainey weren’t really an awesome person. The mere existence of Bee hints at a whole other side to Lainey that we don’t see in the first couple of chapters.

  1. Give them a little self-awareness.

It’s one thing for Lainey to be rude to Micah in the first chapter after her boyfriend, Jason, breaks her heart. It’s another thing for her to be rude and then realize “Hey, that was uncool of me to take out my anger at Jason on someone else.” Later in the book, Lainey is talking to Bianca about what people at school would think of her if she dated someone who has a criminal record and just doesn’t fit into her crowd. She admits to the readers: “It sounds lame, like I care what people think, but the reality is that everyone cares what some people think.”

  1. Give them a shot at redemption.

Lainey is lucky to spend a few weeks of her summer getting to know some new people and having new experiences. And she’s smart enough to learn—both from the people and the experiences. She makes both good and bad choices, but she gradually wises up throughout the story. And when she figures out what really matters, readers will respect her for recognizing her own growth.

What do you think? Have you read books with flawed characters recently? Tell me in the comments why they did or didn’t work for you.

Yes yes yes! This is so much what I feel and enjoy in reads. I don’t need a character to be perfect. In fact, it’s usually the flaws I find myself relating to the most. I remember being a teen and I remember feeling a little selfish and self-absorbed at times when I shouldn’t have. I remember how I often behaved, regrettably. I remember how my friends behaved. Sometimes I need to read characters who are like that too. They are so much more believably in the moment. It makes me feel like those years are more normal. Obviously I grew up and learned from my mistakes and experiences and part of what I love about YA is experiencing others take that journey as well.


Paula is giving away one signed ARC of The Art of Lainey, plus an awesome swag pack, to one lucky winner. This contest is international.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


More About The Art of Lainey
the art of lainey cover

To win back the one she loves, she’ll have to go to “war” . . .

Soccer-star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.

And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they’re sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few “dates”, it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game.

What’s a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you’re meant to be with, if you’re still figuring out the person you’re meant to be?
 photo addtogoodreads.png

About Paula Stokes

Paula Stokes writes stories about flawed characters with good hearts who sometimes make bad decisions. She’s the author of several YA novels, most recently Girl Against the Universe and Liars, Inc. Her writing has been translated into eleven foreign languages. Paula loves kayaking, hiking, reading, and seeking out new adventures in faraway lands She also loves interacting with readers. Find her online at or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.

Sara @ Forever 17 Books

37 Responses to “Guest Post ARC Giveaway: The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes”

  1. Christina R.

    LOVE LOVE LOVE Paula’s advice – it’s so true, that you have to balance the good with the bad, and show the good fast.

    Love her tip about having an awesome friend, to point out she can’t be that shallow/clueless/flawed. It’s also interesting when a character starts out with terrible friends because she’s too scared to be herself.

  2. Lauren

    This sounds like a cool story! I totally agree about characters needing self-awareness and a path to redemption. Then they’re free to muck it up a bit, and even annoy me to the point where they need “to get slapped or go die in a fire” :D. I love Cher, so if book Lainey is in her wheelhouse, I’m in. And yeah, those MC’s that you’re just supposed to insert yourself into suck. They’ll all bleed together for me and I’m bored by them. Great post!
    Lauren recently posted…THE RIVERMAN Blog Tour: Interview w/ Aaron StarmerMy Profile

    • Paula Stokes

      Thanks, Lauren 🙂

      Another thing I like about flawed characters is you can show true, meaningful growth without “totally fixing them” at the end. I prefer to leave everyone a little bit broken. I mean, my personal character growth has been going on for years and years and years, and I’m still a little bit broken 🙂
      Paula Stokes recently posted…The Fan Art of Lainey!!My Profile

  3. Amanda

    I love reading about flawed characters because I think it’s easier to connect with them. I’m rereading Divergent right now, and I think that definitely qualifies. Everyone is trying to figure out who they are, and they are far from perfect, even Tris.

  4. Stephanie Scott

    Great advice on flawed characters. As a reader, I definitely need *something* to hang onto for likeability. Kody Keplinger writes great flawed characters. The other thing I see a lot, in books and in TV/movies, is that women are given a VERY hard time if they are flawed. It’s almost as if she has to have the “right” flaws and only to a measured degree or she isn’t worthy. It’s very sad. I personally love complicated characters, especially those that allow women to be nuanced and not just gentle flowers who are kinda dorky or sometimes a little mean.

    Way to go on fighting the good fight on characters with depth!
    Stephanie Scott recently posted…Book Review: Easy by Tammara WeberMy Profile

  5. ShootingStarsMag

    Great guest post. I like flawed characters too. it’s no fan to read books where the MC’s are these super awesome, ‘perfect’ people. that’s not realistic at all and it just annoys me. I just recently read and reviewed The Secret Side of Empty and that has a great, flawed main character named M.T. She’s struggling with a lot and she doesn’t always do the right thing, but overall, she’s a good person and I liked her!
    ShootingStarsMag recently posted…Tune in Tuesday with Idina MenzelMy Profile

  6. Kristia

    I like reading a book with flawed characters. It makes it easier for me to sympathize. It’s like the character is one of us, one of all the many flawed people in the word. I am not perfect and I don’t want to read about a perfect character, it makes me feel inadequate.
    One book that I read and loved recently with flawed characters is What I did for a Duke by Julie Anne Long.
    Thank you for the giveaway 🙂

  7. Maricris Patrimonio Dimla

    One of many things I love about books is their flawed characters, it makes it more realistic(even if it’s fiction) that the characters are not perfect. When a character has flaws, the reader can relate to them and at the same time can learn how to cope with that kind of flaw. I’ve read The Duff by Kody Keplinger and How to be Popular by Meg Cabot were the main characters also have flaws.

  8. Somia

    Great advice! I definitely agree on the 3rd one (Give flawed characters some endearing traits).
    Thanks gor the goveaway 🙂

  9. Desiree

    I love flawed characters! I really like to see their growth throughout the book. One of my favorite flawed characters is Markus from the Jessica Darling books!

  10. Ginny

    I like the cover. This book sounds really interesting and I can’t wait to read it. Thanks for the giveaway. I also enjoyed reading about how to write about flawed characters. Great info!!

  11. Jenni

    I loved this guest post! There are a lot of good points Paula made. It’s given me things to think about that applies to other characters. I can’t wait to check out this book

  12. January

    Flawed characters are awesome! Sometimes a character is just too perfect and it drives me insane. I’m currently re-reading Divergent. Tris has some flaws, and that’s what makes me like her! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  13. LAWonder10

    I think it is good to bring main characters laws “to life” but not to dwell heavily on them. Sometimes the author drags the flaws and insecurities out f..o..r..e..v..e..r..
    I am presently reading a wonderful book – Windswept Hearts – which the author bring the flws into the open yet does it perfectly well.

  14. Ariel T

    Paula’s advice for writing flawed characters is pretty spot on. I really like reading about flawed characters. I think the most recent book I read with flawed characters was Vain.

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