Writing The Perfect Flaw

“Perfection has one grave defect: it is apt to be dull.” – W. Somerset Maugham

What's your character's Flaw?To be flawed is quintessentially human. We can’t escape our flaws, and through fiction we experience the emotional rush of overcoming them.

Flaws serve to add depth and conflict, establish empathy, and make the character more memorable.

“Flaws are the vehicle by which a reader most readily identifies with a character. It is through flaws we can identify with an elf, a king, or a captain.” – Bruce Marko

If a character is perfect, then all the conflict in the story is someone else’s fault. He’s either a victim of circumstances, or has no personal stakes in the story

Flaws add a skintight layer of conflict. It can be defensive external conflict or guilt-ridden inner conflict.

In the end, a character isn’t defined by his flaws but by what he does in spite of them. Tweet this!

Writer’s Temptation

We all like to daydream about life without any limits. No flaws, no challenges. So it’s tempting to write a story about that daydream. But here’s the stink:

Perfection is like a crystal clear lake. There’s no sense of depth. And as novel and beautiful as that lake may be, a character without depth is boring, or worse, annoying.

In comparison, the “flaws” of underwater branches and water discoloration in the photograph above add beauty.

Leave perfection in daydreams.

In fact, you might make your character as flawed as you can manage. Why? Because readers like impossible odds. It increases the tension, and in a way, the stakes.

Readers relate to the struggle. And they get a vicarious payoff when the character succeeds.

“The bigger the flaw, the sweeter the victory.” Kristen Lamb

Recognizing the RIGHT Flaw

The foundational flaw, the essential one, will be a personality defect.

It will be major.

It will impede the character in his goal. We’re not just talking about the protagonist. Almost any character can be deepened through a flaw/goal juxtaposition.

Download The Brainstorm Spark: Perfect Flaws to get you rolling. Fantastic flaws await.

It should also deepen the characterization in some way. You might need to explain it through backstory, or it might be related to another part of the character’s personality.

You can have other flaws, even minor and non-impeding ones. Just makes sure they make sense and add depth.

Side note: Physical aspects or limitations, circumstances, and fears do not count as foundational flaws. Each has its place, and it’s not here. PERSONALITY DEFECT.

If you’re writing a tragedy, your character should have a fatal flaw, and a moment (called hamartia) that sets him on a path to inevitable destruction.

Your character’s flaw might also be a weakness. I differentiate the two, because a weakness is something that can be exploited, and it can be anything from a virtue, to a secret, to the desire. If your flaw is a weakness, great.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Many, Many Possibilities

Before you start trying to add a flaw, recognize what might be considered less than perfect about the character, and how it can affect the story. You might not need to add anything.

What with the flaw being quintessentially human, there’s a smorgasbord of flaws to choose from. Go figure.

Start with the deadly sins, chief features, and polar traits. Then we’ll move into the uncategorized wilds.

Deadly Sins

We’re starting with the most vague, and if not treated with nuance and care, the most cliche.

  • Envy
  • Gluttony
  • Greed
  • Lust
  • Pride
  • Sloth
  • Wrath
  • Despair
  • Vainglory/Deceitful Boasting

Now, you might notice that there are more than seven. That’s because historically different sins have been featured. So I included them all. It’s a downright sinful party of possibilities!

(Did you really expect to get away without a pun? You’re FUNNY.)

Chief Features

There’s some overlap from the deadly sins (greed and pride), but it’s worth noting how some of them oppose each other.

  • Self-Depreciation
  • Self-Destruction
  • Martyrdom – It’s possible that a character afflicted with this chief feature will actually refuse help in order to complain later.
  • Stubbornness
  • Greed
  • Arrogance
  • Impatience

Any of the sins or chief features can differentiate into more specific flaws. Layering is encouraged. Just don’t let the flaw overwhelm the rest of the personality.

Polar Traits

These are traits that become negative when taken to extremes.

A virtue taken too far is easily positioned as reasonable from the character’s perspective.

“I’m only trying to help!”

“I’m just being honest!”

It’s not the only way to position a polar trait, but it’s the easiest.

As Limyaael points out, “too unselfish” doesn’t count. It has to be so extreme that there’s no mistaking that it’s a flaw. We’re talking about taking organized up a notch to control freak and then slamming it to flat out manipulative.

The further you take it, the more depth you give the character.

This layering is even better if you can connect it to one of the sins or chief features. Wide net, small holes.

Don’t worry overmuch about categorizing the flaws. That’s not the point. As long as you know how they interconnect, you’re set up to work on the Theme when the time comes.

Other Flaws (The Wilds)

It can be hard to figure out the ways that a sin or chief feature might manifest, so these are specific flaws you can use.

I’m including a short list of my own, and several linked lists.

  • Overtalks (especially when nervous)
  • All talk and no action
  • Will do anything to please (external locus)
  • Adrenaline junkie
  • Contrary/Perverse

TV Tropes Flaw Index

11 Character Flaws To Use In Your Script Right Now

300ish Flaws (forum)

When you choose a flaw, keep in mind that there has to be a reason behind it. There might be a lie that they believe, or a traumatic experience in their past. It might even be a reaction to current circumstances.

I’m not of the opinion that you have to show the reason behind every flaw. Sometimes it’s appropriate, and sometimes it’s better to let the character’s past remain a mystery.

However, you should seriously consider looking into why a character has a certain flaw.

The reason grounds the flaw, and gives the reader a basis on which to judge it less harshly. It allows the audience to understand why he is the way he is.

With minor characters you can skip the reason, but generally not with major characters. Even if you simply hint at one, it’s still better than nothing.

Unless you don’t want reader sympathy for that character. A valid choice.

Putting the Flaw to Work

Before you can write the flaw, you need to get specific about how it manifests. Otherwise it’s all too easy to end up with a character that doesn’t act according to their flaw. Or the flaw overwhelms the personality.

Don’t make the mistake of labeling a character in your writing, either. Use the specifics to show the flaw, dialogue to hint at it, and the reactions of other characters to acknowledge its existence.

Let your character make mistakes.

Just have him make a different mistake each time, because you don’t want to get caught in the loop-de-loop of similar scenes. Or flat-lining stakes.

Put him in different situations where the flaw can be acted out.

If you’re having trouble thinking up mistakes, it might help to think of the flaw as an attitude and the mistakes as behavior acting out that attitude. As a last resort, as some teenagers to help.

Speaking of flat-lining stakes, the mistakes should have consequences. No letting him off scot-free. You hear me?

Pro Tip: Let the consequences of the flaw reverberate throughout the story. Unforeseen ripples can give your audience chills.

If it seems impossible to punish your character, or if all the possibilities seem too harsh, then you haven’t given him a flawed enough flaw. Barely there equals watered down, and readers will notice.

Really, punishment is the wrong word.

The fallout should be a natural result of the actions, even if the character and reader didn’t see it coming. It’s probably going to be the repeated repercussions that cause the character to finally change his ways, if you go that route.

Another way to show the flaw is through the character’s inner conflict over it. Maybe they want to change. Maybe they don’t, but they hate the consequences.

Either way, it drives home how engrained the flaw is.

You should also show it through the character’s voice. It helps if you think of it as an attitude. It doesn’t need to be constant, but it needs to crop up every once in a while.

And it’s not just dialogue. It’s in narration, too.

“Character flaws in first person POV can be a real challenge. Most people don’t see their own flaws – don’t acknowledge their own mistakes. The flaws have to be communicated using the unreliable narrator who thinks that what s/he’s doing is correct and logical but which inevitably results in unexpected circumstances.” – Nathan Lowell

And that pretty much sums up showing your character’s flaws.

But it doesn’t mean we’re done.

Self-Awareness

Or rather, the lack of self-awareness. Our psyches have ways of keeping  us from becoming fully aware of our shortcomings, including cognitive biases and defense mechanisms.

I’ll share a few biases.

  • Anchoring – focusing on only one of a number of pertinent pieces of information
  • Bias Blind Spot – not believing they are biased
  • Choice-Supportive Bias – believing past choices were better than they were
  • Confirmation Bias – supporting preconceptions by focusing on information that fits
  • Empathy Gap – not realizing how much something will affect someone
  • Moral Credential Effect – feeling justified in a few wrongs because of a good track record
  • Normalcy Bias – the denial of unusual events, causing a lack of preparation or reaction
  • Omission Bias – seeing harmful acts as worse than equally harmful omissions
  • Restraint Bias – underestimating temptation
  • Semmelweis Reflex – rejecting new evidence because it doesn’t “fit” with what is “known”

As you can see, most relate to ignoring evidence that the character doesn’t like. Quite useful for keeping them in the dark. But you can’t overuse them, because reader’s won’t be suffering the same effects, and they won’t find it believable if used too often.

On the other hand, your character might be aware of the flaw and quite comfortable with it. You’ll have to explore the situation and backstory to get a handle on that one.

Don’t overdo the self-awareness, though. Occasional hints suffice.

How the Story Plays Out

This is one area where you can run into a lot of conflicting advice. Some say the flaw should be consistent throughout the story; others think it should be redeemable.

I say it depends on the character and the story. As long as it’s believable and satisfying, go for it.

One way to find the middle ground is to have a foundational flaw (the one that impedes the character in the story) to be redeemed, and other flaws to keep around.

And that brings us to the ways that you can shape the arc.

1. The most commonly espoused arc is the ultimate transformation, where the flaw is eliminated. It’s a good option, but not always fitting.

If you’re going that route, you should avoid including too many scenes where the character beats himself up over the flaw. Realistically, a negative attitude makes it harder to change.

2. Success in spite of an existing flaw. In a way, this is harder to pull off because you have to convey that the flaw hasn’t been beaten.

For either scenario above:

Unlike the Greatest Fear (another Cornerstone), which I suggest should be approached in small steps for believability, the flaw gains a huge emotional impact by making a sudden leap. It can be made believable by showing the internal conflict.

It works with the flaw because it isn’t an instinctive reaction like fear. It can be approached rationally if the character is aware of it.

3. The character succeeds precisely because of the flaw. The worse the flaw the better the story.

4. There’s one final arc possibility for the flaw. Tragedy. This is where you get the term “fatal flaw.” The flaw causes death, or at the very least, a lack of achieving the goal.

No transformation, no overcoming. Although you could throw in a transformation too late to save him.

(I’ll be covering arcs further in a later post.)

Questions to Answer

What is the general flaw?

What are the specifics?

What is the cause of this flaw?

What makes it seem reasonable to the character?

What mistakes can the character make because of this flaw?

Do the consequences have an affect on the storyline?

Is the character aware or unaware of the flaw?

What form does the arc take in relation to the flaw?

 Don’t be Afraid to Use Flaws

 “Give them a character they can love because of his flaws—not in spite of them.” – K.M. Weiland

A character's Flaw is an opportunityThe right flaw doesn’t detract from the character’s appeal. It makes his strengths shine in comparison, his mistakes make sense, and his conflict more gripping.

If you want some help figuring out your character’s flaw and how to deepen it, give me some character info in a comment and we’ll see what we can do.

 

For a quick overview of how the Flaw works with other aspects to build your character’s personality, click over to The Four Cornerstones of Strong Characters

Others so far in the series:

Greatest Fear: How to Find It and Run with It

Picking a Juicy Secret

The Four Pillars of Strong Characters

The Path to Deepening Your Protagonist

 

For future articles like this, sign up. It’s free.

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About MJ Bush

Developmental Editor.
Founder of Writingeekery with 10,000 monthly readers.
I help writers like you master the craft.

Comments

  1. Wow, great post! I love the detail you’re exploring here. And thanks for quoting me!

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  2. Shawn Farritor says:

    This is really good! It makes me want to write the most flawed awful character I can!!! You always impress me MJ!

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    • Thanks, Shawn. Just make sure the rest of the personality shines through, too. Otherwise the result is dysfunctional and not able to stand up to the rigors of a storyline. :)

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  3. Great stuff, MJ. Thank you for keeping me in the loop! Khaled Hosseini was on the BBC the other day and he was talking about Amir in The Kite Runner. I think the characterization in that book’s first half in particular is incredible (IMHO). I still feel that Amir’s intolerance for cultural hypocrisy, and his own sanctimonious and sometimes cowardly behavior aren’t redeemed with his action in the end. Hosseini said readers have said that it’s too close to home for many (or something like that, I may be misquoting but I was nodding along). On a related note, I think it’s very difficult to write “worthy” or near perfect characters – a narrator or very central character – without the reader feeling an urge to see them undermined.

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    • Hey Richard, you’re welcome. I haven’t seen Kite Runner, so I can’t follow all that well, but I think it’s interesting how there are so many possibilities for resolving the flaw. And we don’t always agree with an author, but others might. The intended audience factor is so intriguing to me…

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  4. Yes. and writing characters without any flaw is unrealistic even for a fictional story.

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  5. I like writing flawed characters. They’re easy to relate and fun to develop.

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  6. I personally love finding new flaws for my characters.

    I for one think a flaw can be both redeemable and consistent. Like you said, it depends on the character. Sometimes I want to see a character change, but even then I want some of the flaw to remain to the end.

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  7. I’m working on a character who is a drug adddict. One of his main fears is self blame. I’m still early in the process but so far he is unaware of this fear or denies it. One of the ways he deals with his fears is through drugs. He runs away from his problems and is in denial that all the bad things that happen to him and that all his problems are his own fault. As a defense mechanism of his fears he instead blames everyone else because he can’t handle looking at himself. I’m using this defense mechanism as a major flaw. You said you need to make sure that your characters’s flaw isn’t a fear in disguise. I’m having a little trouble figuring out if this is a true personality defect or just an offshoot of his fear.

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  8. The story I’m working on has a group of four characters. The most central character has a HUGE flaw that drives the plot forward in many ways. I have come up with flaws for two of the other characters, but the last one is giving me trouble. All of the other characters in the story have very obvious flaws except for this one. With everything else going on in the story, it almost seems like overkill to make this guy have as big of flaws as the rest of them.

    This character needs to keep the rest of the group together. He is the one that keeps the other three from killing each other. How can I make him a strong, moral character while still making him human and relatable?

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    • Hi Kayle,
      So give him a subtle flaw. :)
      I’ll be covering character themes in a later post, but you can use the basics to help you solve this. Who is he the opposite of? Does that character have one of the chief features? If so, consider giving him a toned down version of the opposite chief feature. (Something to think about: you can let the characters run loose with their flaws in the first draft and tone them down later.)

      I think you already know the answer to your final question. A flaw is needed, you just have to make it fit the character. I would also look at exaggerating his strengths, as I cover in my strengths article. http://www.writingeekery.com/strength/
      Have fun. :)

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  9. I am seriously in love with this blog. Thank you for posting everything!

    I have never really given too much thought into character flaws and this got my thinking. I also have some what you may call “characterflawblock” but perhaps someone out there may be out there to help me.

    I am currently (slowly) writing a novel. Here’s the character information.
    (I haven’t actually picked a name for him yet, Colin is a contender though)

    Colin is a 14 year old teenager in the 90’s. He isn’t too popular, and lives with his mother. His Best friend, we’ll call him Ken for now, moved in after his mother suicide. Colin came home on day and found Ken ready to kill himself in the bathroom and stood outside the door trying to stop him, too late, Ken passes. Colin is jumped demanding money for Kens “payment.” He finds drugs in Kens room (Heroin or Estacy no sure yet).
    Long story short: Colin starts using.

    He had the good outlook on life throughout. Talks like a philosopher, A LOT. I”m making this story to MEAN something.

    Anyway i was thinking possibly “wrong place wrong time” thing as one but that isn’t even close to enough possible flaws, and none from the possible lists you’ve posted!! I’m stuck for some reason!!

    Replys are appreciated. Thanks in advance!!!!!

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    • Perhaps look at what in his personality made him susceptible to the allure of drugs. Why did he start using? (I’m assuming, it’s an unhealthy addiction right now.) Did he under estimate their temptation? ◾Restraint Bias – underestimating temptation. Is he too stubborn to seek help? (Stubbornness would be the flaw) Would he be battling inner turmoil of wanting to change vs. despairing that even if he were to reach out nothing would help? (despair would be the flaw here- seven deadly sins) Is he too arrogant to admit he might have a problem or be in over his head? Is he hot-headed? Is he desperate to please others, and fit in? What flaw in his personality leads him to start using drugs? Unless he thought it would be a good thing… in which case, why would he think that? Maybe your flaw is hidden in there.

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    • Hi Kaitlyn,
      It sounds like it will be a moving story. Just a bit of advice…

      Being in the wrong place at the wrong time isn’t a flaw. It has to do with the circumstances, not the personality.

      Other than that, Ash has it down. :)

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  10. I read in your posts that the flaw should not also be a strength. It is meant to get in the characters way, not aide them. However, I was wondering. Is it not possible for a trait to be both? Let me explain. Determination is a strength, take it too far though and the character becomes stubborn and tenacious, which is a flaw. Determination can drive a character to do much, and much bad. So aren’t there strengths that can also be flaws?

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    • Hi Ash. :)
      If you’ve read this post, you know that I’m a proponent of having multiple flaws. See the section titled How the Story Plays Out. It IS possible for a flaw to be both, but it’s (usually) best if there’s at least one flaw that is completely against them. Otherwise they can come across as unbelievable. :)

      I cover the strength/flaw mix more in my strength article, because at its core it’s a strength taken too far. http://www.writingeekery.com/strength/

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      • Thanks for your advise. I relooked at my protagonist’s flaws and revamped and clarified my notes. The main motivation on my main character is that she wants to live in a presumed utopia. However the utopia is built on hypocrisy and herd mentality. Her strength/flaw is determination and honesty. The added flaws I added were two cognitive bias’s 1. Reactance- doing the opposite of what someone wants you to do out of need to resist a perceived constraint on your freedom of choice.
        2- She’s the devils advocate of her own story. She will take the opposite view point of a popular belief simply to discuss and argue different idea’s. Even though she wants to fit in she’s her own biggest hindrance due to her nature and flaws. Any thoughts or suggestions you might have from this brief description would be hugely enjoyed.

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        • Hi Ash,
          With the two biases, I’d say her flaw is the need to be contrary, plus a dash of stubbornness. You might expand it beyond those two and look at why she’s contrary, and for other cases where she’s needlessly stubborn in little ways that will reinforce her characterization.

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  11. Hi, I like the post but know i’m confused. I’m writing about a girl who is not aware of her flaw, she doesnt realise shes hurting herself.
    She studies a lot til the point she is tired all the time and gets sick very often. Shes not aware that she actually doing to make her parents proud, because her sisters always were the spotlight, but eventually i’m gonna make her find out. I would really aprecciate if you give me your opinion. Sorry if theres something you dont understand, I’m from Argentina.

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  12. I’m struggling with honing in on my character’s flaw. This character is an adolescent who has some physical deficiencies and has been bullied because of them. These problems are critical to the plot but I’m struggling with zeroing in on a flaw that isn’t related entirely to the deficiency. Can the flaw be something like internalized anger that expresses itself in fantasizing about living a different, less tormented life?

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    • Thanks for commenting. :)

      Here’s a question to consider: do you want something unrelated to his physical problems? My take would be that physical problems have a real affect on our lives but we have personality outside of them, as well.

      One reason it’s tempting to give a character a flaw related to something is so that it’s justified and we don’t feel like we’re tarnishing the perfection in our heads. Been there, done that. It doesn’t work. You have to be willing to add a flaw, not just look for one, because most “found” flaws are tame and mild and easily scrubbed out in the writing.

      I would point you to the deadly sins and chief features I listed in the article. You could definitely take it in interesting directions. Maybe he’s stubborn and won’t give in to his limitations, getting him into interesting trouble. Maybe hes impatient, always wanting people to hurry up when he’s waiting for help. Maybe he’s prideful about the things he’s good at. Just ideas.

      But by not relating everything back to one trait or element, you give your character depth.

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  13. Thank you for writing this post. I was talking to my sister, and she told me I don’t have flaws for my character.

    So here’s the description:
    Prince runs a kigdom, based upon second chances. He works beside his parents in the future. He has a temper, and is afraid that people will think he’s a monster. He gets into fights but only for good causes.
    I’m afraid he’ll be boring. But I don’t want him to be super awful, because he is supposed to be very helpful, my mom suggested that I start him out horrible. But that messes up another main character’s quest to solve her flaw.

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    • Thanks for commenting, Aurora. A character doesn’t need to be awful to have room to improve. But there does need to be room to improve.

      It sounds like you need to identify what makes him mad besides righteous anger. Everyone has things that make them mad beyond injustice. What are his sensitive subjects? What does he feel vulnerable about? What does he regret? Without more to his anger, he’s going to seem flat.

      Another idea: he might also have a case of martyrdom, doing good deeds to look good rather than out of compassion. Martyrdom comes from a desire for pity, so it would mean that he

      Or maybe he’s prideful. This can be subtle, it doesn’t have to be overstated.

      Or maybe he’s impatient. Or maybe he isn’t dependable, always off helping someone with something, not differentiating between what really needs his help and what could kind of use someone’s help.

      It’s up to you. Pick one that sounds like it’ll make for interesting situations, and run with it. :)

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  14. Hi MJ,
    I’m trying to add depth to my two main protagonists in my science fiction/dystopian novel. The conflict of the story is America’s wrongful treatment of the two intelligent alien species that live on a planet several lightyears away. America’s reason for interfering is its need for resources. My protagonists, a man in the US military and an impoverished woman whose left leg is paralyzed, have to learn the truth behind the lies America is telling and then help the natives fight back. Both protagonists are passionate, caring, and loyal, and the woman rises above adversity with her natural resilience (a necessary character trait because of her leg). My question is, what flaws could they possibly have? I want these characters to be interesting, and the story should be about them and their relationship to each other as well as America’s interstellar troubles. Any help you could offer would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks!

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    • Just an idea, but maybe when they do discover this truth, one agrees with america and the other disagrees. Maybe the woman whose left leg is paralysed could be frustrated because it could never be healed and the alien species are the only ones that have the treatment. She wants those resources, like america does. She and the man fight about this while other plot features are going on, then maybe she will come to the conclusion that they need to help the aliens from an experience in the plot, maybe someone they meet who is in a similar situation, maybe she’ll only listen to those who understand.
      This could well be a bad idea because I’m new to writing, but I think this would be an interesting story to read. Use any points you like.

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  15. Caitlin says:

    Hi,
    I’m working on a character that is struggling to accept herself. her major flaw is that she judges and labels people as either good or bad, no in between, and this relates to her greatest fear, that she herself is not acceptable. my main plot is that when my character loses her closest friend, she has to face her fear of being unacceptable. what would be the best way to tackle her flaw?

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    • Hi Caitlin,
      You should research black and white thinking, including its ties to Borderline Personality Disorder. Even if you don’t go the disorder route, there should be more to her flaws than just black and white thinking. What else causes her problems? What might others see as a flaw that she sees as a strength or something to be proud of?

      You can download the Brainstorm Spark: Perfect Flaws by subscribing here: http://pages.writingeekery.com/flaw-content-upgrade/
      Or if you’re already subscribed and can;t find it in your inbox, reply to one of the Writingeekery emails and I’ll send it to you.

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  16. This article is so detailed I’m going to have to come back a few more times and
    let it sink in again. Thank you for sharing this.

    My character’s biggest flaw is encompassing not just her, but all of her people too. For hundreds of years they’ve been lied to these spirits that are pretending to be “the good” gods when in fact they are the gods of the underworld. Anyway, Everything she thinks, knows, and believes is an elaborate lie.

    Throughout the story her mission is to destroy this older god (its been weakened) by bringing him back to her home city to be destroyed she thinks he’s evil (and he acts like he is, as hes angry, a little nuts and a jerk)

    Is this a flaw?

    She is also haughty, impulse, sometimes rude, a thief, and destroy a city freeing the weakened god.

    Am I on the right track yet?

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  17. Nairi Simonyan says:

    Hi, I really loved your article! I’m so glad I found this, I’m having some trouble with my own character. I was thinking of giving him one of those flaws that are positive traits taken too far. So basically, he focuses on others more than himself. He gets himself involved in other people’s business to help them but he doesn’t stop to ask if they even want his help or not and he puts the needs of others before himself.
    As a result, his life is literally and figuratively messy and he doesn’t let himself go far in his career and he still lives with his parents. He even lands himself in the hospital at one point and brushes it off as nothing. Do you think this is a substantial enough flaw? Is it deep enough?
    It’s a fantasy novel so his “species” I’ll just say, are known for being cruel and apathetic but he doesn’t know about that. He’s always felt like there’s something wrong with him, like there’s too much darkness and negativity building up inside him and he’ll even sometimes just get these uninterested thoughts towards others too. So, I was thinking that him trying so hard to help everyone and involve himself with people is his way of making himself feel like a good person. He gets recruited to help save this important figure and his enemy is someone who likes to target your weaknesses.
    Am I doing this right or does he just sound like the type of character you’d want to hate?

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    • It sounds like an interesting flaw, but I’d give him something else to struggle with as well, something more solidly negative. It’s a different type of struggle, and having both deepens a character, especially when you explore the different angles of inner conflict.

      Without that, I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say I’d want to hate him, but I’d add something unrelated that negatively affects someone besides himself, just to give him another dimension.

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  18. I’m having a problem with my story:

    My main characters consists with a group of six characters. One of the characters (Which is my main character of the six) struggles with self – destruction due to an abusive family.

    However, after doing some research, I find that most people who struggle with self – destruction end up harming – or even killing – themselves, but I don’t want my character to harm herself, just be mentally traumatized and hating herself because of her past.

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    • Thanks for bringing this up. It’s such an important point to touch on… You don’t want to write the story that way, so give her outside help. Show her struggle to recover. Show her redemption. Statistics only tell the usual story; they don’t tell every story. As long as you go to the effort to make it real, you can use it to offer hope. Just make sure you talk to real people that have struggled with it, and try to capture the essence of the battle. This is NOT a topic you can approach without talking to those that have experienced it.

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    • MJ Bush says that you should speak to someone that has experienced it. If you have not found someone yet, you can speak to me. I am currently going through this. You can contact me at glassseer@gmail.com. Just don’t tell anyone, it’s a secret, no one that will read this knows me, so it’s no big deal that you know.

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  19. Hey there. Great read, here! It’s got me thinking about the character in my upcoming film project. I have a character whose flaw is that she doesn’t value herself. There is a gender bias in her household, where her brother is rewarded for his achievements but she is not recognized for hers, and so she has a severe inferiority complex that she has to overcome through the course of the story.

    I was just wondering if you had any feedback about how to make this flaw more specific. I think I have a starting point but I’m having trouble finding out where to go from here. I feel like I need to take it farther. Thanks in advance!

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  20. Janessa says:

    Hi, this was a very enlightening read. I have been having trouble with one of my characters. It’s for a sci-fie film project I’m doing with my siblings. She is a character that calms things down, solves arguments, basically holds everything together. She has an over arching fear of losing control of her surroundings, especially her emotions. She has had anger management problems in the past and is really afraid of losing her temper. She also has problems with her self worth, always thinking that she isn’t good enough, but doesn’t want anyone to know this so acts happy and nice and distant, always trying to make sure she says the right things. Because of these she has trouble making friends, in the beginning of the story she doesn’t have any. I don’t feel like she has enough flaws, but am not sure which ones to add that will not make her bad at peace keeping. I’m not sure how to write these into a story, and am afraid that she’ll just come across as a cold, stony, bland person that doesn’t have much personality.

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  29. thanks a lot for this post. it was really timely for me. i’m currently working on a book where the main character was abused by her father’s friend which her father actually gave consent to. and so she grows up hating herself and men. the book starts with her getting over the experience and its trauma. her flaw here is that she gets so conscious of men around her to a fault and gets judgemental about them too. someone commented earlier here on something like this and you said she had to speak with someone who had experienced it. do i neccessarily also have to do that?

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