On character flaws
“Crippled things are always more beautiful. It’s the flaw that brings out beauty.”
— Holly Black, Tithe
It seems to be the general consensus that characters need a healthy balance of positive and negative traits in order to be well-developed and realistic. Even though I have a profound love for flawed characters, I often find myself struggling with the balance—creating a character that is neither too flawed nor too perfect—not to mention how coming up with positive traits seems to be a lot easier.
How does one go about choosing flaws for characters then, without going overboard? I’m fairly certain most of us having been almost obsessively staring at lists such as this one, and while they can be very useful in some cases, personally, I tend to forgo them. Choosing random traits from a list and applying them to my character seems rather detrimental, as there’s no guarantee it will even fit the character in question.
So, here is a random trick I often turn to: Explore the negative side of one or more of the character’s positive personality traits, and turn them into weaknesses or flaws.
Some examples of this include an intelligent character who is arrogant, condescending, or withdrawn; a nice character who allows themselves to be walked all over and can’t say no to people; a self-confident, outspoken character who comes across as bitchy; a carefree, happy-go-lucky character who engages in reckless behavior; or a sweet, helpful, talkative character who comes across as annoying and overbearing, or whose goodwill is exploited.
The possibilities are endless.
This tactic doesn’t always work, but I’ve found it very useful in the past, as it, at least in my opinion, guarantees that the character’s flaws won’t seem out of place with the rest of their personality; while also making them more three-dimensional.