Advice

What are Character Flaws?

When writing characters, it can sometimes be difficult to bring them to life and make the reader feel as though these characters are real. This article will explain character flaws, so you can effectively write characters and integrate them into your plot.

Character Traits and Character Flaws

Character traits are personalities, values and qualities that bring your character to life and set them apart from others. Ensuring that your character has character traits will create how they will respond to the happenings in your story, the other characters they interact with and the way they carry and present themselves throughout the story. When character traits become negative and limiting to a character, this is when they transition into the character’s flaws. Every character must have character flaws, even if on a surface level they don’t seem negative. For example, an obvious character flaw would be greed or vanity, which causes the character to be selfish. On the other hand, a character flaw such as indecisiveness can be as destructive to a character’s life or the plot, while not seemingly that poignant.

Here are some character flaws you could use:

  • Argumentative
  • Selfish
  • Controlling
  • Impatient
  • Manipulating
  • Narcissistic
  • Anxious

Some example of some seemingly ‘good’ flaws could be:

  • Too nice
  • Optimistic
  • Selfless
  • Naïve
  • Cautious
  • Perfectionist

Inner Flaws and Outer Flaws

Inner flaws are those we have already discussed – your moods, thoughts and inner personality that affect the way you think and respond. A character’s limitations as a result of their inner flaws are often self-destructive, i.e. the harm they cause are as a result of a part of their personality and innate nature. When we start to build more diverse and developed characters, however, it is important we give these characters outer flaws too. Outer flaws relate to the outside, i.e. physical appearance, physical ability and the way the character chooses to present themselves.

Outer flaws can be created as part of the conflict within your story. For example, in Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses, characters are prescribed an outer flaw in the story dependant on their race, and this causes limitations for them through the narrative. With this being said, you can also write characters with physical limitations and disabilities, in order to be diverse, inclusive and shine light on the limitations people with these conditions face. For more information on writing diverse and inclusive characters, click here.

 

The important thing about character flaws is that they can make or break a story. Character flaws can create progressive complications in the narrative or individually for the character. They can be used as an opportunity for anti-heroes to prove themselves, and overcome the limitations in their way. They can be used to defy the odds, prove readers wrong, shock them and make them think differently. So, when planning out your characters, ensure you give them some flaws to work through and ensure you think about these each time they face a new challenge in your narrative.


 

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