I was watching The Simpsons Twentieth Anniversary Special this weekend, and a quote by creator Matt Groening struck me as a tip to apply to creative writing. If you're not familiar with Homer Simpson, he's kind of a doofus. He's lazy and terrible at his job. He often shirks parental responsibility. He wastes the family's money on crazy schemes. He spends too much time at the bar and often forgets the name of his youngest child.
But, viewers love him. At the end of the special, they addressed the question of why, when Homer does so many awful and destructive things, does everyone love him? Matt said that someone suggested that viewers love Homer because Marge (his wife) loves Homer. Well, isn't that sweet?
But, Matt contradicted this assertion. He said that he believes that viewers love Homer because Homer loves Marge. And that, my friends, is how you offer your audience a well-rounded character. If you know The Simpsons, you also know that Homer and Marge are crazy in love. When Homer gets in a jam and Marge gets mad at him, Homer makes his sad, Homer whimper and realizes he's been a doofus. And he feels bad about it and know he's disappointed Marge.
If Homer went through all his hijinks not caring about his consequences, he wouldn't be so appealing to an audience. But because he balances out his screwballness with sincerity, because he loves his wife and hates letting her down, he's likeable. He's relatable.
And when Homer and Marge walk off into the sunset together, you know he's truly in love. And that makes for a character we all can root for.