Are Your Characters Flawed?

Photo credit: Jenavieve on Flickr
Every once in a while, I fall into the trap of loving my characters too much. By this I don't mean that I don't put them through hell twice-over—I can't think of a single manuscript where that was a problem for me *insert evil smiley face*—instead, I mean sometimes I forget about something rather important: flaws.

More times than not, this happens for secondary characters—the best friend, the love interest, the people that, for all intents and purposes, you're supposed to love. Sometimes, for these characters, I do such a great job making them lovable that I forget they're not actually supposed to be perfect until a reader pokes me and asks what their flaw is and I can't answer.

Whenever this happens, I open up my copy of The Negative Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi (the geniuses behind The Emotion Thesaurus). It has an enormously long list of possible character flaws, with descriptions of each flaw, what causes it, what it may lead to, etc. which often helps inspire me when it comes to developing flaws that make sense for the character.

And that is the key there: the flaw should fit organically into your character so that it doesn't feel tacked on or ill-fitting. It wouldn't make sense, for example, for Sherlock Holmes to be obtuse or not think through his actions—but his arrogance and bluntness definitely makes sense for who he is.

It's definitely important to remember flaws when creating characters, because characters without them start to feel too perfect—and consequently too unrealistic—if you're not careful. And besides, a character well-balanced with flaws can create new opportunities for tension and conflict, which is always a pretty nice bonus.

What are some of your favorite flawed characters?

Twitter-sized bite: 
Are your characters flawed? @Ava_Jae talks the importance of balanced character development. (Click to tweet)

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