Ever read a book or watched a TV show or movie where a character was just too sweet, or too good, or too, well for lack of a better word, perfect? Those characters are boring to read about and watch because they aren’t relatable and don’t have room for growth.
I have found three activities to be especially helpful when assigning a flaw to a character:
- I go to the core of who a character is by identifying his/her deepest desire, strongest belief, and biggest fear. I then select a flaw that fits that type of person.
- I look at a character’s strength(s) and then ask myself, “What is the negative side of this strength?” For example, a compassionate character could be overly sensitive.
- I delve into the character’s past and look for any event that could count as traumatic. I then assign a flaw that developed in response to that trauma. For example, a character who was robbed might be paranoid or have trouble trusting.
If you’re looking for more ways to give your characters a much needed flaw, I recommend that you read Now Novel’s article “Character flaws: Creating lovable imperfections.” It covers three different types of (perceived) flaws: physical, emotional, and ideological. It also talks about how those flaws could repel and attract different characters and how a flaw could cause a character’s feelings about another character to change, for better or worse, during the course of the story.
For a great writing exercise for finding a character’s flaw, read Gail Carson Levine’s blog post “Nobody’s Perfect.” She uses the fairy tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” to demonstrate how to do the exercise and has three writing prompts at the end of the post.
For an extensive list of personality flaws, check out “123 Ideas For Character Flaws” by Writers Write or get a copy of The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.