Episode 216: Adding Dimension to the Story with Character Flaws

On Jan 21, our Fears & Flaws episode got so side tracked by fears, we decided to table the “flaws” half to next week. So here are the show notes for our Jan 28th episode.

Agenda

  • Why a character needs flaws
  • Realistic examples of flaws
  • How to not beat us over the head with flaws
  • How to write characters that seem real enough
Photo by Ismael Su00e1nchez on Pexels.com

Segment 1/2

Why does a character need flaws? (link)

So they’re relatable – they’re human, or sort of, just like us

So they’ll make mistakes

So they’ll seem real – not like our Mary Sue

So they’ll be more complicated and add depth to the story

So they’ll actually struggle with things – there’s a reason we don’t write stories about God, right?

So they can redeem themselves

This blog takes issue with the assumption characters have to be flawed. It’s an interesting argument – does Cinderella have to be selfish? Childish? Or greedy? We don’t express a flaw for Cinderella, but she has them, doesn’t she? I mean why doesn’t she ever stand up for herself? The other point that blogger makes is that sometimes we end up with flaws that aren’t really flaws, just undesirable traits.

So what are actual flaws?

These are limitations or weaknesses that the character might not even see in himself. They should be specifically related to the main conflict the character is having. And if you haven’t worked this out, it may be an accident that you’ve created it. (link)

Three types: minor, major, and fatal.

  • Minor flaws – what you would expect, impediment, a challenge, but mostly inconvenient
  • Major flaws – preventing them from moving forward, preventing them for achieving their goals
  • Fatal flaws – leads to a characters death; pride, stubbornness

Segment 3/4

This blog also does a nice treatment of using character flaws in a character arc. Which is useful.

This blog has a list of 70 flaws you can use. Take one. Or two.

Not to be outdone, this one has 123 flaws you can use.

This blog gives us a list AND how to create the character using them. So that’s cool.

  1. Tie the flaw to the character’s backstory or exposition
  2. Match the flaw to the character’s personality – if they’re vain, make them always aware of mirrors, if they’re distrustful, make them question everything
  3. If the flaw is a behavior, be clear about what it looks like, sounds like, and results in
  4. If the flaw is emotional, be clear about how it manifests – in language, decisions, or activities.

What is the impact of these flaws on the story? Again, this might be accidental. You might be writing and stuff is happening and then you’re like, “Yikes! That sucks!” because a character did or said something that changed the trajectory of a conversation or scene.

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