No one is perfect, and readers don’t want or expect your characters to be either; they want them to be real. Even the heroes of a story have some flaws and they need them for your readers to be able to relate to them. Readers can forgive your character’s flaws if they can understand them. Characters have to grow and overcome obstacles; they must be so real that they come to life on the page.
‘Flaws reveal a lot about a character and who people are. The flawed elements of a character are where I find their humanity.’ Liev Schreiber
I have put together some articles and podcasts about writing flawed characters.
Well-storied discusses how flaws play a role in the conflict in our stories. It breaks down impactful character flaws into minor, major and tragic, and explains how to use them.
This Masterclass article gives us reasons to give our characters flaws, such as that flaws make characters relatable, it can set off a character arc that allows that character to grow and change. It gives us 12-character flaws to use in our writing such as vanity, low self-esteem, lust for power, and an inability to move on from the past.
Physical, emotional/ personality flaws, ideological character flaws are explained here and how we can use them well in our stories by explaining them, making the flaw fit the character, and finding additional flaws as you draft.
If a character is created without flaws, they tend to be ‘godlike’ depending on the story. When this is the case, the reader gets really good at predicting the outcome of the story. If a character never makes a mistake, then there is never any tension because the readers know that things will turn out okay. This great article discusses backstory in flawed characters, their values, education, causes and consequences, and the character’s perception.
This article gives examples of flawed characters in literature and shares some questions that the writer should consider when coming up with flaws for your characters.
How can you create characters with unique and interesting flaws that lead into plots that will enliven your stories? In this podcast, Will Storr talks about using cause and effect in storytelling, and how to give characters depth and flaws without being cliched.
This conversation grapples with creating flawed characters that readers want to invest in. Creating sympathy, building empathy, and relatable human desires are discussed.
Episode 5 of this podcast talks about diving deeper into character flaws. Having flawed characters makes them original and relatable. How your character reacts, lives, and believes is based on their flaws and that is what makes your story different from someone else’s.
Flaws are important in fiction. They help the reader to connect with your characters and in this way, the reader becomes invested in the story. Always keep in mind that characters can’t have flaws for the sake of having them; there must be a reason, a backstory to their flaws. A flaw can help your character grow and change which is important when considering their character arcs.
I hope that this week’s column has been helpful. Please get in touch if there are any topics you would like me to cover.
(c) Lucy O’Callaghan