No human is perfect. You aren’t perfect. I, sure as heck, am not perfect. Ernest Hemingway wasn’t perfect. I’m sorry to say this, but our characters aren’t going to be perfect either. Though for some newer writers that is a gasp-worthy phrase, it is the truth.
The Need for Flaws
It’s a good thing to have characters that are far from perfect! That is how they learn and grow to the character that will be standing on that final page. If you create this “perfect” character, you are screwed. Your reader wont remember them, and that character will never be allowed to breathe and grow. It also creates a sort of flavor to a normally bland character.
Choosing the Flaw
The flaw is usually something that comes naturally to you when you are creating your character. It has to fit them, even if that flaw can seem unexpected. They can grow an allergy to their favorite food or end up having a stutter that they struggle with keeping a secret. It doesn’t have to be prevalent but it does have to make sense.
This can also stem from the topic of your fiction, or the issue that takes places within it. If you are writing a novel about the loss of innocence you can have a character with the flaw of being too mature or too childish. With that same topic the flaw can be that the character sees the world with a hope of all that is good in it and it is this viewpoint that makes them a target of the evil in it.
Using Flaws Actively
You can be surprised to know that sometimes the character’s flaw can be used as a strength. For example, in the anime Fairy Tail a character named Erza has an artificial right eye, many have seen it as a flaw not only physically but emotionally as well since early on she can not shed tears from it. In a later episode she is turned to stone by magic but her artificial eye ends up breaking the spell and she goes to help save the city.
You can also use that flaw as a character’s downfall. This is most commonly used in the fall of the villain, where the hero uses the flaw against them. Pride, ignorance, ultimate weakness, etc. How you use their flaw against them is really up to your imagination.
Psychological Disorders as Flaws
This part is a special topic for me, since I study a lot of psychology in my spare time. Psychological disorders can be used as a flaw for the character. Though all disorders have their variations of severity, the traits expressed by them are hints to them as flaws. The tricky part is keeping the traits consistent while also not giving away the disorder to the point of the character telling the reader straight out. (Unless that is what you are trying to do.)
If you are going to use a psychological disorder, do as much research as you possibly can. The last thing you want to do is try to express a paralyzing fear disorder, like agoraphobia, and instead describe it as a mild panic disorder. The write what you know saying applies to this more than non-fiction does.
Another reason as to why I say research it, is because mental health is backstory oriented. Some disorders stem from traumatic experiences, so they are to be included in the backstory of your character. Other disorders don’t need a traumatic trigger but are prevalent since childhood from developmental issues or genetics. If the character is an adult but has had the disorder as long as they can remember, show traits of it in their childhood as well.
The Flaw Doesn’t Have To Be The Only Flaw
We are all filled with a variety of flaws. Though you can focus on a single flaw with a character, it doesn’t have to be the only flaw that they have. Multiple fears and issues can be summed up in their profile and can each have their moment when the time is right.
Don’t Forget to Check Out the Other Posts for Character Creation:
Want to keep up with series posts like this? Click here to sign up for the weekly newsletter!