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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Flaws and Symptoms

Today I am going to put my writer hat back on and talk a little about how I design characters. I have seen other blogs/authors speak about the same thing I came up with on my own a long time ago. Good guys must have bad parts.

Okay, what do I mean by bad parts? I mean flaws. No one is perfect. If a perfect character is written into a book, readers will not be able to relate to them. They will seem too perfect. Sometimes readers like that, but I believe that overall it is a downfall. How I apply this to my writing is that as I come up with a character, I consider what one particular flaw he or she has. (sometimes they have more than one, but often it is the badguys who have extra flaws.)

For example: When I created the Joseph character for The Crystal Needle I decided that he would have the flaw of ego. In the book he is working to combat that and look within a person to see the inner beauty. But, I bring out that his ego is still a part of him in the way he acts sometimes and how he flirts a bit too much at first. But, his struggle and victory over that ego is what brings him and Allison together.

In my Bark stories I went with a few extra flaws. First, externally, a flaw for Bark is that he cannot speak. His voice was destroyed in the mutation process that turned him into a dog-man. This is a guiding feature of his person, but it is a flaw. Second, he is naive, he was thrust into the hero world and does not understand everything at first. He views the world through normal person eyes, not superhero eyes. Through three books, I allowed him to grow out of that naivety through meeting new people
and experiencing life as a superhero. But, in the end, he still has it in his heart.

So, you can understand that flaws not only humanize a character, they can guide their story along. More readers can connect with a superhero who has the same thoughts and concerns as them.

Next:: Flaws come with added effects, symptoms. A symptom is what tells the story better.  Allison in The Crystal Needle has the flaw of being extremely shy, the symptoms of that shyness come out as her being irritable, a little mean at first, naive about the real world, and over protective of her brothers. All of these symptoms are created and affected by her extreme shyness. As she comes closer to Joseph and loses her shyness, the symptoms fade. But, those symptoms told her story better. When you have a flaw in a character, you know how they will respond differently to a situation than someone else. Also, the reader understands why they respond in such a way. Allison's immediate rudeness toward Joseph when they first meet was a result of her shyness, and the reader understood.

One last example. How this can be fun. In my current work in progress, I have a character named Donna who is a potion master and a semi-main character. She is smart, a touch sassy, funny, good hearted, and very outgoing. But her flaw is that she is tragically single. I actually mention this outright when I first describe her.  This helps define her personality. She has an eye for any handsome man and even goes so far as to flirt with a bad guy in the story because he is the type who is handsome-and-knows-it. This flaw in her leads to a highly comical scene between her and one of the main characters. It also gives the reader the notion that not all good guys have the perfect life, some are still searching for that special someone without any prospects.

I hope that all made sense and that you gleamed a bit of wisdom from it. None of us is perfect, if we were, editors would go hungry. But those imperfections are part of us and the journey to fix our flaws refines our own story. The challenge in real life and in the development of a character is to not allow the flaw to be the absolute definition of who he or she is.


  1. I love to read what you have written and I thank you so much for the explanation of the flaws. Most of the time we do not look at that as part of a person and just become so negative to flaws that we become numb to some of them.
    You keep going and do not give up. One day you will be known for the awesome stories you can create.

  2. Good post. Flaws are important to give characters makes them more real and adds conflicts.
    New follower.
    My Blog

  3. Good points about how to create well-rounded characters. The antagonists in stories also need to be well rounded. While the hero or heroine cannot be all good, the antagonist cannot be all bad, either. They should have one redeeming quality.