Nobody is Perfect: Writing Character Flaws

Nobody’s Perfect:  Writing Character Flaws

The best thing to do when designing your main characters (you do design them, right?) is to assign them three flaws. Why? Because nobody’s perfect. It is true in life, and it’s true in art. You don’t want your story to resort to “good guys” who are always good and “bad guys” who do everything bad.  Sit down with each character (both heroes and villains):

  1. Write out a physical description and add one flaw. It could be something small like a scar from a bicycle fall or something as large as a missing limb. Bad knees, sinus issues, dry eyes and bunions happen in real life. They should happen to your character also.
  2. Write down how your character sees the world around her and add (at least) one mistaken thought. People think wrong things. Some folks think people are always good, others think everything that happens an omen of bad things, some think everyone who practices religion will take advantage of you, and others think the person with the most money is the best person. No matter what lens your character looks through, add some fallacy to make them interesting.
  3. Write down a list of personality traits your character has and add (at least) one bad one. A hero can be greedy. A villain can be lazy. A detective can be paranoid. A romantic partner can have PTSD or a dissociative disorder. Make sure when you are giving your character’s personality you pile on the bad with the good.

It’s not just by their actions and looks that we judge characters. We judge them by their flaws, their motives and their struggles to overcome.  The goal of authentic writing is to make your character a person – not a cut-out.  Flaws are part of us, and will need to be a part of your characters as well.  So, scar up a pretty face, or give a great friend a terrible world view.  Give them life, one messy trait at a time.