Make Your Hero Complex By Choosing The Right Flaws
The best characters are those who mirror real people, ones who are complex individuals with a blend of strengths, failings, talents and flaws. Of these four components, flaws can often be the most difficult to figure out, because knowing which negative traits will emerge means digging into a character’s past to understand what negative influences and experiences helped shaped them, and what painful emotional wounds they bear as a result.
Flaws are unique because many form under the guise of “helping” a person. On the outside, they seem to protect in some way, keeping the character from re-experiencing a deep emotional pain that happened in his past (the character’s wound). Because of this, choosing which flaws best suit a character will have a big impact on the story and the character’s arc, because the hero’s negative side creates biases that leads to flawed thinking, actions and behavior. Flaws “pretend” to protect, but really all they do is trip the character up, hold him back and create friction in his relationships, making it hard for him to find true happiness and succeed.
Some writers tend to rush character development in their eagerness to get words on the page. They slap together a motley blend of flaws and send them down a rocky plot road to see what happens. And while this can yield some fascinating, out-of-the-box characters, this “spaghetti method” can sometimes rob a character of their depth.
When it comes to flaws, it is the WHY behind the negative trait that is compelling. A character can be irresponsible, or hypocritical, or a workaholic, but without the WHY, the reason this trait emerged, a reader is unable to connect with them on a deeper level. The WHY is what readers are drawn to, because it encourages the character to do some serious self-examination throughout the scope of the story, which will lead to self-growth.
So as we create characters, how can we discover the WHY behind character flaws? How can we determine which flaws are perfect for our character and which are not? Here are 5 tips to make sure each flaw you choose counts.