Writing character flaws

The reason why character flaws, or big problems, are so important, is because this is what our character is going to overcome. To master, to change, to learn to strengthen or resolve. This flaw will be planted right from the beginning, showing the character in their normal setting, struggling with something that has a negative impact on their life. By the end of the story, we will see the character transformed, back in their normal world, but living a little more imperfectly.

Every story requires a specific character to fulfill the story arc. A character’s arc is a much an integral part of the story as the plot. They should compliment each other through the specific conflicts that will appear because of the characters flaws.

The point of a story isn’t to just save the world, or to get the girl/ boy. It’s to see and feel the world through your characters POV. Show the reader what’s different now that your character has set out to achieve everything they wanted. Whether they achieve their goal, or not, is not important. Overcoming a flaw and getting something they needed is.

Needs are internal goals, things that can transform a character: Redemption, forgiveness, love, acceptance, fear, survival, trust, responsibility, faith or selfishness.

Cinderella giphy

As writers, we understand the necessity of a great character arc. To create goals, wants and needs that unravel through the story. Wrong plot or wrong character, and the story is, at best, not going to achieve its full potential. Or, at worst, it’s going to fail.

In Wonderwoman Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo, Diana wants to prove her worth to the Amazons. Diana knows none of the other Amazons respect her as an equal and this plagues her thoughts. Driving her to enter the mortal lands to save the planet from war, intent on proving to her fellow Amazons that she was worthy of living amongst them.

In Uprooted by Naomi Novik, Agnieszka loves her family, friends and her village. She’s distraught when she’s chosen by the Dragon to spend ten years in his castle. Agnieszka’s goal is to return home, she wants to escape, but she needs to transform into the woman who helps her loved ones escape the curse of the Woods.

Both Diana and Agnieszka are driven to protect their loved ones and to return home. However, their developed characters, filled with strengths, weaknesses, and flaws, would have resulted in very different arcs. Thus changing the whole plot.

I imagine if Diana had been chosen by the Dragon, she would have fought her way out of the castle early on, maybe even incapacitating the Dragon. She would have fulfilled her goal of returning home, , but the corrupt Woods would have devoured her beloved village.

I imagine if Agnieszka had lived with the Amazons, she would never had been called to take action in the first inciting indecent. She would have happily stayed on course, and the story would’ve ended before it even started.

Picking the right character, or characters, if you’re writing multiple POVs, is essential to the development of the story. But don’t worry Pansters, we can always evolve are characters, and/ or story during the editing phase: In fact, I often do.

Fantasy writer Lorraine Ambers blog banner

How do you define your character flaws, or the big problems they’ll face to bring about transformation? Are you an avid plotter, developing your characters before they appear on the page? Or are you a little like me, developing the problems as they arise, and then backtracking during the editing phase so that everything aligns? Share your writing process with me, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.

11 thoughts on “Writing character flaws

  1. I usually have a central flaw in my mind but develop more as I write. At the moment I am trying to write a character where he starts off thinking he has no flaws only to discover he is in fact deeply flawed. I want to get to a point where he learns to accept that after some degree of resistance.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I prefer writing with a plan, but I find writing by the seat of my pants quite liberating. Being a pantser allows you to experiment or to write with a freedom an outline doesn’t allow. The only drawback to that is that you can end up neck-deep in detail. The only option I’ve found is that you have a very skimpy list near you **as you write** that you can refer to and can be a point of reference. For details like height, weight, eye color, sexual orientation, name of the dog, etc.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Great post! I love flaws in characters, it makes them real and makes it easier to understand their motivations. There’s nothing more dull than a perfect character. I love the points you make here xxx

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I’ve had Wonder Woman Warbringer on my tbr for a while. You have me interested with the character and character development, so I’ll have to pick it up! I’m definitely a plotter. I’m Anatomy of Story (one of my favorite books about writing!) the author talks about giving your characters a “moral flaw” so I always try to do that. 🙂 Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Tell Again Tuesday Flawed Character @lorraineambers | C.D. Hersh

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