Flawed Characters

In writing, I believe characters with flaws are the most interesting. People who, despite personal, physical, or mental problems, step up and accept the challenge, either to succeed or to fail, like real life. People are not Superheroes. In fact, Superman’s biggest flaw was his love for Lois Lane knowing any relationship would place her in danger. Flaws sometimes define a person.

Captain Ahab’s thirst for revenge against Moby Dick, the whale that had scarred him both physically and mentally, defined him. He may have once been an honorable, God-fearing captain, but his encounter with the white whale changed him.

In some popular myths about Dracula, the suicide of his wife and the Church’s refusal to bury her on holy ground drove him to seek vengeance through the dark side. Speaking of the Dark Side, Darth Vadar falls into that category, following the Dark Side to keep his wife safe.

The flaw can be slight – a fear of the dark, or as in the Indiana Jones series, a fear of snakes. It can be less tangible – the fear of failure or the fear of caring too much. I think flaws of this type, psychological, are the most effective in writing. They can force a character to hesitate at the wrong time or to stop short of his/her goal.

Physical flaws can affect how the character goes about his goal, relying on others more than he/she would like, or overcoming these flaws through self reliance or ingenuity. Flaws, both physical and psychological, often define a character in others’ eyes as bad – retarded, slow, high strung, crazy, a gimp, scarred, withdrawn, handicapped – or as good – scarred and fierce-looking, doggedly determined, reflective.

Flaws can be used by the antagonists to beat down or humiliate the protagonist, allowing the hero to meekly accept the affront or defiantly challenge. Unflawed characters are one-dimensional and predictable and offer little for which the reader can cheer them on.

In writing and in life, approached flawed characters judiciously and with respect, because all of us are in some way flawed.

One Response to “Flawed Characters”

  1. No one wants to read about how something came easy, struggle and how a person responds to it builds a truly interesting character. Great post.


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