Writing: Character “It” Factor

Part 2 : Joy of Flaws, Flaws, Flaws

Hello Friends,

Welcome to Part 2 of Writing: Character “It” Factor. This is where we take the proverbial ‘fine tooth comb’ to our characters. In Part 1, I talked about focusing more on the psychological persona of your character, rather than physical attributes. If you missed Part 1 and would like to check out that post, click here.

Today, I want to discuss the importance of giving your characters flaws. When I first began writing, in my teens, I took this idea of giving characters flaws, at first, to mean physical flaws. In those days, there was not a plethora of writing books at my fingertips, or even one video available, regarding character development. What was available was probably really dry – ergo, I did not read them. But eventually, did take several writing courses.

Though I doubt you are thinking this way, let me explain:

Flaws can be physical but should primarily be psychological.

Now, let’s get down to the Joy of Flaws, Flaws, Flaws.

Whether a character is the hero, villain, or sidekick, they must never be perfect. A perfect character is unrealistic and uninteresting. Your characters must have flaws to make them more human, relatable, frustrating, funny, frightening. A hero may be perfect in every way, but they will come across dull if they do not have at least one dent in their perfect poise that keeps getting in the way of their success. Character flaws can be physical, psychological, or both.

When giving characters physical flaws, ensure the jagged scar across their cheek is not only distracting or horrifying to set eyes upon, but has a psychological impact on the character. Physical flaws work in building character if they affect a character’s confidence, have a cause-and-effect backstory revealing why the character behaves a certain way, or why they feel or interact with other characters as they do. A character’s physical flaws have an impact on others, but even more strikingly on themselves.

You can build a story around a character’s physical flaw(s), but it is the effect of the disfigurement on the character’s psyche that is impactful, relatable, and moving to your readers.

Psychological flaws can be minor, major, tragic, or fatal. A character may or not be aware of their psychological flaws in the beginning of the story but, depending upon the type of flaw and the effect it has on the character or their ability to reach a goal, as the story progresses, they may realize a specific flaw is something that must be overcome in order to win or survive.

Flaws create conflict both internally and externally. Flaws cause problems in the characters’ lives, sometimes stopping them from getting basic things done to potentially putting their lives in danger. Flaws cause conflict within the character, with other characters, or within the storyline itself. Nothing moves a story along with more vigor, or interest, than conflict. Outside of the external conflicts shaking up your character’s life, it is the internal and personal relationship conflicts that will impact the story and the fate of your character even more.

Most of these types of conflicts will be caused by inherent flaws of your character and those they are interacting with. Exacerbate plot dilemmas with characters riddled by flaws and you have a story that will likely have your readers screaming at your characters in frustrations, or crying their eyes out because their fatal flaw destroyed or got them killed. It’s awesome (*wicked chuckle*)!

Now that you understand how flaws can improve your fictional people, please download my Character Flaws Tip Sheet, and head to your writing laboratory to create some delightfully ‘effed’ up characters. 😊

My next post will discuss unique character qualities.

Until next time,

Joan❤