Monday, August 17, 2015

Beauty and Brokenness

I write romance. Whether as the main binding of my novel or a smaller thread, romantic elements are a staple in almost everything I write. I love…love. Why? Oh, there are so many reasons. The emotional high, the subdued gentleness, the tender service, the transforming power.

Love makes a difference - 
Especially when we add the element of God’s love into our fiction.

But what makes these ‘love stories’ so meaningful? What changes our stories from a simple, two-dimensional fairytale-like story to a tale that brings our hearts to life or inspires us?

Well, I’ll venture an answer.


Every major character we bring onto the page has been broken in some way. Even the highly adored Mr. Darcy was broken!  Yet, he is a most loved character BECAUSE he was broken, and then we got to watch love turn him around :-)  (However, Mr. Knightley might very well be perfect. Just sayin’ J)

In a world of broken things, we have little use for perfect people. Perfect people, if you've ever read them, fail to grasp our hearts and emotions as well as the broken ones do. Why? We can relate with broken people because we’ve all experienced some element of brokenness. Big or small, we know the sting.

In fact, I’m pretty sure we struggle with some form of brokenness on a daily basis.

Think about some of your favorite book characters? What made you fall in love with them? Perfection?

If you’re like me, these characters captured your heart because of their growth through brokenness.

Whether in romance or other fiction, brokenness is a key element in character development.

Brokenness provides the wound which only love can heal.

Now, I’m not quite singing along with the Beatles’ All You Need Is Love, but I am saying, as we create powerful characters, we are taking them from a place of brokenness to a place of healing by the end of the story.

Isn’t this what usually happens in most stories? It’s one way conflict and the character arc work together.

Can brokenness be beautiful?

Why do we love happy endings?

Because on the other side of brokenness, love brings a deeper joy.

How different the story of Cinderella would be if she traveled to the Ball with her stepmother and sisters, caught the prince's eye, and was swept away to marry him. Sweet story, but depth? Beauty of the ending?
Not quite as poignant, right?

What about if Rapunzel crawled down from the tower and went straight to the castle to find her parents?

What if Angel in Redeeming Love tossed away her old life as soon as Michael Hosea walked into the brothel?

Sweet endings, sure, but we get something EVEN BETTER.

We get the 'conflict', struggle....the brokenness to make that ending all the more beautiful.

This idea is fresh in my mind as I finished edits for my December release and am currently working on edits for my February release. Both of my heroines were significantly broken in the beginning of the books. One was aware of it. One wasn’t. What makes each of their journeys more powerful is the way their brokenness shapes them in the beginning of the books and the way love transforms them by the end. It’s a constant battle between living in brokenness and learning to live in love.
What a beautiful experience. Both realized the sweetness of love in a deeper way than they would have without the brokenness to frame their vision.

Love changes things.

Especially God’s love.

In our writing, in our lives, the power of God’s love transforms broken pieces of a life and places them back together to make a masterpiece…more beautiful than before. At the heart.

So tell me – what are some great ‘broken’ characters you’ve read? Written?

Are you like me? Do you think broken characters are more beautiful?
As a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Pepper Basham enjoys sprinkling her Appalachian culture into her fiction whenever she can. She’s an award-winning author of both contemporary and historical romances, mom of five, speech-language pathologist, and lover of chocolate. She resides in Asheville, North Carolina with her family. She is represented by Julie Gwinn and her debut novel, The Thorn Bearer, released in April 2015. Her first contemporary romance novel, A Twist of Faith, released in December. You can connect with Pepper on her website at, Facebook- or Twitter at


Courtney Ballinger said...

This post reminds me of Katie Ganshert's A Broken Kind of Beautiful.
You've said it exactly right. Brokenness is how I relate to a character and care about his/her journey.

My own characters are most definitely broken. No way could I write perfect ones. I'd be bored to death.

Anonymous said...

I'm am a reader, not a writer, so this may not matter, but...Part of what makes me enjoy a "broken" character is the ability of the character to overcome what makes them broken through God's love and watching that Almighty Love transform them into someone beautiful. I have read books where that 'transformation' doesn't happen or only half-way happens and I'm left feeling less hopeful, and doubting transformation will happen. I understand a character stumbling and struggling, but as a reader who has invested in a story, I need to know that the character will reach that point of wholeness, healing, and happiness.

kaybee said...

Pepper, I LOVED "Redeeming Love"! One of Rivers' best.
I can't imagine not writing about broken people, and the only way to put them back together is through Christ, Ergo, I can't imagine writing without Christ!
Kathy Bailey

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

I'm with you! Totally!

Pepper said...

I'm totally with you on that! Perfect? Where's the fun or character growth in that?!?

And...well...Katie Ganshert is pretty awesome in every way ;-) but her novels totally get the idea of beauty out of brokenness.

Pepper said...

Are you kidding me? Readers DEFINITELY matter!! You're the ones who want to read about our broken and struggling characters :-)
And I agree with you. The way God transforms a character from beginning to end really cultivates a spirit of hope within me throughout a story. I want that!

Pepper said...


"I can't imagine writing without Christ."

The whole heart of the gospel is God sweeping in to redeem broken people! And his example is a fantastic 'template' for our writing :-)

Pepper said...

Thanks, my sweet friend!
It takes a broken person to write about broken people :-)