One of the best ways to create a realistic character is to give him or her a character flaw. Real people have problems, obsessions, emotional instability, and a whole host of flaws. Today I’m going to talk about how flaws can improve your protagonist and why a flawless character can be problematic.
For more information about the character arc and backstory, check out Creating Deep Realistic Characters.
- A character flaw will make your protagonist more realistic and easier to relate to.
- The character flaw is an integral component of the character arc. Without a flaw, a strong arc is not possible.
- A horrible or unlikable flaw can be forgiven if the reader understands the backstory that led to the flaw.
- Quirky or slightly negative personality traits are not flaws if they do not cause the character significant difficulty and if they do not tie in with the backstory.
- The character flaw leads the protagonist to make bad or incorrect decisions that make it more difficult for the character to achieve his or her goal.
Questions to Ask About Your Novel
1.Does you protagonist have a flaw that impacts his/her ability to achieve the goal?
Your protagonist’s flaw should have some negative effects on his life. Maybe he is too guarded with his emotions. Maybe he is too stingy with his money.
The key to an effective character flaw is consequences. Stay away from “cutesy” flaws that don’t have any effect on his life. It might be fun if he always chews grape-flavored gum, but that’s not a flaw, it’s just a quirk. A flaw needs to actually interfere with the character’s life.
2. Where does your character’s flaw come from?
Many writers skip this step and don’t provide a compelling reason for their character’s flaw. If your protagonist gets drunk on the job, why does she do this? How does it connect with her backstory? A connection to a previous event can help legitimize and add richness to a character flaw. A strong connection with backstory is what separates a personality quirk and a true flaw.
If you have any questions about writing a flawed protagonist, please post it in the comments below.
Comment Question: Did you know your character’s flaw right away or did you add one later?
Workshop #1 critiques will be posted later today and every day this week. If you didn’t get a chance to submit last week, the submission form is still open!
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