Writing a protagonist is fun, there is no doubt about it. Developing their style, their winning personality and forming an attachment to them. It is a powerful feeling. Yet, there is a mistake beginner writers often make when creating and writing their character. The character is flawless, they cannot go wrong.
Here is why you should go the other way and write flawed characters.
One of the first flaws I have to mention in order to create a more interesting character is a personality flaw. Personality flaws can range from an anger problem to a value they hold dear. A value that most dislike or disagree with. In doing so, you make your character different from the bland characters that make up most novice reading.
A personality flaw helps a reader point out in a dialogue which character is which if you don’t use their names. Like in real life, the opinions of your characters in your novel matter. Be sure to create some variety in order to make them more interesting.
Making a Mistake
A character is also free to assume things. Believing another character is weak, when really they are strong for example. We as readers are presented with more information than all the characters, usually.You as a writer need to understand that the characters you create do not know as much as you. Thus, they will make mistakes along the way.
Your character can be purposefully mislead as well, believing somebody when they shouldn’t have. The character needs to act confident in their mistakes to make the mistakes carry weight in the novel. Otherwise, you are protecting your character and it shows in your story. Plot armour is something many readers complain about, so try to avoid equipping your favourite characters with it.
The Power Behind Weakness
At this point in the list your character is already more interesting than most if they include one of each of the above. Yet, there is another necessary flaw that only serves to improve the character, lending them depth. A character with a weakness makes for more interesting conflicts.
Even Achilles has a weakness, which goes to show that no character is invincible. You can create an interesting character by making their weakness known to the reader and using it later in the novel. Perhaps the character is afraid of spiders, simple fear, but it already adds to the character.
To make the weakness more impactful, it can be something closer to heart. A fear developed through trauma or love. A character might have a great fear of losing someone close to them, so will do anything to protect them. A true heroes flaw if there ever was one.
Or perhaps it goes even further, the character had their fears realized and someone close to them died. Now the character avoids getting close to anyone for fear of living through the same pain. Suddenly your character and their emotions become more understandable, the distance they create between other characters who try to get close.
There is power behind weakness and that power strengthens your story.
The Other Side of the Story
Giving a character weakness makes them interesting, yet what effect does making them flawless create? Afterall, we don’t want a certain character to appear strong-willed or strong physically when they are not. The truth of the matter is that we create certain characters trying to make a good impression of them to the reader, but it is hard to escape that habit.
In doing so, we create bland characters who have little-to-no difficulty making their way through the story. Yet, there are some characters we need to make appear flawless, invincible in order to make the story interesting. These are the antagonists, the characters who appear unstoppable, but as the story progresses, they weaken and the protagonists strengthen.
Like a balancing act, the side of evil needs to fall in order for the side of good to rise.
Finally, we need to go over what flaws you should have and which ones you should not include in your novel. Believe it or not, you can overdo it. Giving a character too many flaws makes them as ridiculous as a character without fault.
In which case, you need to decide on flaws that are necessary to the plot or the characters development. In which case, unless your character is faced with a giant spider, including a fear of spiders is not exactly beneficial to the plot or character development. You will need to find out how your chosen flaw will affect the character throughout the story.
Often when I work with my students they tend to fall into the trap of ‘small talk’ in their novel. Creating a meaningless conversation only serves as padding to a novel without much substance. Creating the unnecessary is incredibly easy, which is why so many writers develop this bad habit. It usually stems from their lack of interest in writing that day.
That is why I suggest that you included flaws in your planning process and not your writing process. When you are writing your novel you create several interesting scenes, both slow and fast. Yet, the flaws should be planned in advance, as creating one on the fly without having prepared a purpose for it later in the novel serves as unnecessary small talk or blatant padding.
Whether you have considered adding flaws to your characters or not, I can say with confidence that they make the writing experience more enjoyable as well. I find that a conflict where an antagonist uses a weakness against a protagonist far more impactful, especially if the protagonist overcomes their shortfall and triumphs. It lends a strength of character to the protagonist.
In addition to far more interesting conflicts, some flaws serve to make amusing scenes. Such as one character teasing the other for their flaws. It is something we see everyday and it helps bring friends closer. Making some lighthearted moments can improve the closeness of your characters in the reader's eyes and if you put further thought into it, it can make your reader laugh.
I hope you enjoyed this look into character flaws and as always.
Good day, goodnight and happy writing!
Thank you for finishing this article. I had a lot of fun writing it and I hope you truly enjoyed it. There are many things you will learn from the writing experience and the 150 above are only a few.
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Thank you very much for reading!
Matthew Dewey, Writer
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