Posted in Characterization

Character Flaw

According to Wikipedia, a character flaw (sometimes called a fatal flaw) is as follows:


Character flaw – Wikipediaen.wikipedia.org › wiki › Character flaw

In the creation and criticism of fictional works, a character flaw or heroic flaw is a bias, limitation, imperfection, problem, personality disorders, vices, phobia, prejudice, or deficiency present in a character who may be otherwise very functional.

How do you choose a character flaw for your main character? That is up to you. I centered it around the story. Once you choose a flaw, how do you use it within the story? Is it just there throughout and that’s all and the character goes about their business within the story and never learns anything from circumstances or their actions, etc? If that’s the case, do we even have a story? No. Not really.

The protagonist in your story is supposed to learn along the way. Their character flaw inhibits this at first, but gradually he/she comes to realize they need to change in order for their mission/goal/quest to succeed. By the end of the book they will have overcome this flaw.

Example:

Let’s say you have a main character named Molly, who’s in high school. Her flaw is that she’s timid/shy. She doesn’t like confrontation or violence and prefers to avoid it at all costs. She doesn’t like to hurt the feelings of others, so she avoids situations where she might have to speak up and maybe make people angry. Therefore, she doesn’t speak up for herself either. So, how does she learn to overcome this and become stronger inside? How does she get others to stop picking on her? How does she speak up for the truth and defend her friend Johnny?

In the above example, you have to get Molly from point A to point B to point C to point D; point D being the end of the story where she finally speaks up and gets over her shyness. Getting from one point to the next will involve a series of events called trials and errors that will serve as learning opportunities for her grow, but she can’t do this without these trials and errors.

Posted in Characterization, Characterization

REAL Characters

In a previous article I wrote about creating characters for your story. I mentioned in that article that your characters must be as unique as possible. I also illustrated two lists of characteristics a writer can use to create characters. I am going to list them again here as a reference for you. There is a good reason, I promise.

  • Eye color
  • Hair color
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Ethnic heritage
  • Age
  • Birth date
  • Religious beliefs
  • Hobbies
  • Favorite color
  • Physical description
  • Political beliefs
  • Favorite music
  • Style of dress
  • Educational background
  • Description of home
  • Contents of wallet (this can say a lot about a person)
  • Habits

Digging Deeper

  • Strong character trait
  • Weak character trait
  • Best childhood memory
  • Worst childhood memory
  • One line summary of their personality
  • What triggers certain moods
  • What is their ambition
  • Sense of humor
  • What is his/her greatest hope
  • Character’s paradox
  • Character flaw
  • How does he/she see himself or herself
  • Philosophy of life

My goal in this article is to discuss HOW to use these traits to make your characters memorable and standout; to make them real. First, it’s one thing to describe in a story what a character’s traits are. It’s quite another to put this description to action. See examples below.

eg. 1. John had brown hair and blue eyes.
eg. 2. John swept his fingers through his brown, sweaty hair. He had been running the better part of an hour. His breathing labored, so he bent forward, leaning his hands on his knees. He blinked his blue eyes as sweat seeped into them. No matter though. The runners high is what he strove for, and he accomplished that.

As you can understand, example 2 gives a clearer picture of John. It makes him stand out as a human because we “see” him, and we come to know that he enjoys the sport of running. We readers can identify with him and how he’s feeling. Here is another quick example. Say your main character has a habit of cracking his/her knuckles. Don’t just mention in the story that they do this. Use this habit in an action. Maybe he/she cracks their knuckles when their nervous, or maybe it helps them think more clearly. Hey, you never know.

Another way we can use character traits to make characters real is to make one of those traits part of the story itself. Take religious beliefs for example. Maybe your story is about two people who are at odds with each other because of their religious beliefs. In the end they make it work somehow. Or, your main character may have a unique sense of humor. Work this into the plot. Use it to distract the antagonist at some point. Again, you never know.

Lastly, I’d like to hit on character flaw. THIS is a trait that every protagonist (and antagonist) must have. It’s what moves your main character forward and helps with their inner growth. I’m referring to the character arch here. The protagonist could have a character flaw such as being severely stubborn, to the point that their stubborness gets in the way of them accomplishing their goals. Yes, your MC will learn how to overcome this by the end of the story (that topic is for another blog post). BUT, it also makes them more real, allowing he/she to stand out.

In closing, how well we depict our characters in our stories depends on how we use their information to their advantage. Rich, well “seen” story people will give your reader a reason to come back to the story and want more. So, let’s give them something they will never forget.

Posted in Fiction

Writing Struggles

For fiction writers everywhere:

No matter where we are on our writing journey, there is something we all struggle with. Whether it’s one thing or a compilation of a few things, it’s there sticking up out of nowhere. Recently, one of my followers on Twitter posed this question. What do you struggle with in your writing? I couldn’t honestly answer this question because I don’t usually struggle with any one thing in particular, and what I struggle with varies at different points in my writing. What do you do with it? How do you work with it?

Sometimes the problem has to do with not knowing when you should use dialogue and when you shouldn’t. I don’t think there is any one right answer for this. I use dialogue when the story calls for it. When I am writing I get this ‘itch’. This ‘itch’ is a strong feeling dialogue is needed or description or exposition is called for. For me it’s a feeling of just knowing. This doesn’t mean I am right every time. I do go back and realize later that I need to cut back on something. That’s okay. It really is up to you as the author when you use a device and when you don’t. It’s your story.

Character arc is another big one. How are we going to show our protagonists growth from beginning to end? Yes. Yes. This is huge. To make the story and your character believable there needs to be growth in this character from beginning to end. What in the story itself causes your protagonist’s grow? The story movement depends on how your character acts, reacts, makes choices, etc… Are your characters afraid and unsure of themselves from beginning to end? I hope not. They may be apprehensive at the beginning, but by the end of the story they should be braver or brave enough to bring down the antagonist. Larry Brooks, in his book Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing devotes a whole part to character. In fact it’s number 2 out of the 6 core competencies. I highly recommend this book.