Character Flaw

Character development is one of the keys to keeping a reader engaged in a story. Believable characters intrigue the reader, move the story along, and provide a guide for the journey. Unbelievable characters can kill a story.

Like most artistic endeavors, there isn’t one right way to go about this, but there are some guidelines that can help you, especially if this is a weak aspect of your writing. A realistic character has to have some flaws, some room to grow, or they quickly become boring and stagnant. There is also the risk that the reader will have no connection to a godlike main character and will therefore not particularly care if she nearly dies while saving the world from destruction. Again. Worse still, are characters who accomplish everything they set out to do, easily and on the first try.

The challenge is to choose flaws that are not too overwhelming, detrimental, disgusting or silly, unless that’s the kind of story you’re telling. You can’t just throw in a bizarre behavior and say, “My character will only drink beer that is darker than her hair. She has a flaw and is therefore believable!” Flaws need to fit the personality of the character. This may seem obvious, but it’s sad how frequently you find characters with flaws that just don’t make sense. If you’re having trouble logically attaching flaws to your character, you may want to take a look at the character’s back story. A character’s history can influence the development of weaknesses and flaws.

If you’re having trouble coming up with realistic flaws, take a look at people you know, and think about the things they do that make you wonder if their head is properly bolted on. Focus on the things they do that are annoying, troublesome, or undesirable. Co-workers and family members are great for flaw farming (just don’t tell them I suggested it).

None of us are perfect, and our flaws are part of who we are. Having your characters defeat their flaws doesn’t need to be the goal of your story; it doesn’t even need to connect to the plot. Having your characters work toward their goals, despite their flaws, can bring them alive on the page. And that’s often what hooks your readers, maintains their interest, and brings them back to your next story.

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About S.N.Arly

Author of adult and young adult speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, dark fiction)