I didn't expect Jane in Bloom to find a publishing home. I thought editors might find the story too heavy for middle grade. Also, the main character has moments where she is really dark. She is angry, she is jealous, then later she is guilt-ridden and grieving. But I wrote the character who spoke to me, and I told her story with all the emotions that were part of her journey. Surprisingly, an editor did want to publish the book. The dark elements made the story realistic, and the main character someone readers could identify with.
When I wrote Silence, I also didn't expect the book to find a home. Again, I thought the story was too heavy and the main character too dark. She is withdrawn and isolated, and has moments where she can't imagine any future for herself at all. But I couldn't tell her story any other way. It turned out that I was wrong again and an editor did want to publish the book. It was the main character's ability to overcome her setbacks that made her human. The light that shines in her darkness isn't just part of the story--it is the story.
It wasn't until I was willing to let my beloved characters be flawed that I found the key to my stories. Instead of being afraid of making them angry or jealous, I embraced these emotions because it let me sift through the characters to understand them fully. These characters aren't villains. To the contrary, they are heroes. But heroes aren't perfect. They have darkness in them, and it is our job as writers to find the light in the dark so that they can see their way through our stories. In allowing our main characters to struggle with their own flaws, we give ourselves stronger material to write. The depth that comes from these scenes can anchor an entire manuscript. So don't fear imperfection. Set your characters free--they just might surprise you in the end.