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July 11, 2016

Flaws, Fears, and Weaknesses / Character ER



Flaws, fear, and weaknesses add depth to characters because people have all three of these things. A character without them is bland…generic…unreal. A character with them is fascinating, relate-able, and real. So let’s take a look at all three:

1. Flaws

There are a couple of different flaws that people have. One is physical flaws and the second is personality flaws.

Physical flaws – No one has a perfect body. Not even models. I have big feet and hands, plus a foot-long scar and a bad back. One of your characters could have a crooked tooth, a bump on his/her nose, or a facial mole she hates. We all have something we consider a flaw or (at least) don’t like about ourselves.

Personality flaws – Now this one will require you to get into your characters' heads and get to know them more. A personality flaw could be stubbornness, impatience, narcissism, or quick-temperedness. Your character can have any of these or any other personality flaw.

2. Fears

We all have a fear or two or ten. A fear can be of anything such as a fear of spiders, heights, clowns, or fires. Then there are inner fears and fears that relate to real life. Like the fear of losing a loved one, dying because of cancer, unemployment or homelessness, or opening yourself up to love.

A fear can literally be anything, so figure out your characters’ fears and exploit them. Also highlight a small fear. Ex: Have a spider crawl on your MC. And use a bigger fear in the plot as something your MC has to overcome.

3. Weaknesses

A weakness isn’t just chocolate. It can be a physical or mental weakness. One of your character’s fears can be a weakness. I have a physical weakness due to spine surgery. Your character can have a physical weakness because of a health problem (diabetes, asthma, etc.). You character can also have a mental weakness such as a psychological disorder. A weakness can even be a person or a weapon if you’re writing a paranormal/sci-fi story.
TIP: Use your character’s weakness to create conflict and character depth.


QUESTION: What are your flaws, fears, and weaknesses?


56 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I probably don't include enough physical flaws.
One of my flaws is perfectionism and my greatest fear is losing my wife.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Flaws and weaknesses are the first things I figure out about a character. Good list.

Chrys Fey said...

Aw. Losing your wife, I'm sure, is something every man fears, but I don't think you have to worry about that, Alex.

Chrys Fey said...

Awesome! You know how to create characters. ;)

Unknown said...

You are not shying away from difficult questions today! I fear almost everything, which is a flaw, but I use it write, which is a strength. :)

Anonymous said...

That spider is cute!
My current WIP, I'm trying to make my one character be stubborn about expressing his emotions so in the scene where he does it's significant.

Chrys Fey said...

Sometimes we have to ask the difficult questions. :)

Chrys Fey said...

I know, right?

That's good. It'll mean more to your readers. :)

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Great points. Our characters need to be "human" which means not perfect. Your suggestions are super.
I like spiders, especially garden spiders. Not so crazy about black widows or others that are poisonous.

Chrys Fey said...

I hope you don't like the poisonous ones. Haha

Jemi Fraser said...

That spider is a cutie!! :)
I've got a character with an issue with her leg in one of my WIPs and it's interesting to write about someone with that flaw that interferes with so many parts of her life

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Since I'm a big chicken, the list of fears would be a very long one! Thankfully, my characters are usually braver than I am. :)

nashvillecats2 said...

I think you may have met me and me not known.
What you have written is me to a "T", I also have a back scar and a bad back and because of events in my life have fears,Which if you spend much time alone you have time to think about them. Thanks for this wonderful post, it was great reading about me.
Yvonne.

cleemckenzie said...

The characters I love most are those with huge flaws--especially personality ones. I can relate to them so well. :-)

Misha Gerrick said...

My answer to all three questions would be... fear of failure. Flaw because it creates a destructive perfectionistic streak in my art, weakness because it triggers my anxiety.

Carrie-Anne said...

I love that tarantula!

It's really fun to give characters flaws, either to be overcome or remaining a part of who they are. I seem to tend towards giving characters limps and otherwise gimpy legs (e.g., polio survivors), even before I had my own limp. it's kind of like I knew, even before I knew. Perfect characters are boring, and no one I want to read about.

Pat Hatt said...

My current book I use flaws for the characters, one physical and the other is a douchebag haha

sage said...

I have many flaws and weaknesses and a few fears (mostly of being late). I do think that these three help make us relate better to one another.

Chrys Fey said...

I can relate to that. I'm planning on writing about a character like myself who has back issues that interferes with many areas of her life.

Chrys Fey said...

Isn't that fun? My characters are braver than me, too.

Chrys Fey said...

We're two peas in a pod, Yvonne.

Chrys Fey said...

Can't we all? None of us are perfect. We all have flaws and that's why we relate to flawed characters. :)

Chrys Fey said...

That's good. You're right that the fear of failure counts as all three.

Chrys Fey said...

That's very interesting. Maybe you were prophesying it. Perfect character are boring! Who wants to read about perfect characters? Blah.

Chrys Fey said...

The other is a douchebag. Hahaha. That's a BIG flaw.

Chrys Fey said...

I agree. We're all only human.

betty said...

If a character doesn't have flaws or fears, etc., they are unbelievable; you can't really relate to them. My physical fear is snakes and small rodents.

betty

Chrys Fey said...

I agree. Fear of snakes is very common.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I love this stuff. All of those are on my character sheets, along with strengths, goals, etc. They are what shapes a character.

Chrys Fey said...

Strengths and goals are also good to know. We need all of it to build a character and their story.

Yolanda Renée said...

I have way to many fears and flaws but you're right that does make a character more interesting to readers. We all need to overcome something - so should our characters. Making them relatable (is that a word) is key!

Chrys Fey said...

Funny you ask. We know relatable as a word, but Word and Spell Check say it's wrong. I don't know. I'd have to look that up. :p

Liz A. said...

Ah, good point. I think my MC's major weakness is her low self esteem, but I'm not using it well enough in the story. Deep sigh.

Chrys Fey said...

Low self-esteem is a tricky one to do throughout a story.

J.H. Moncrieff said...

Personally, or in fiction? :)

I have several phobias. I can't go on a downwards escalator without suffering from intense fear. I can also be claustrophobic, and I have a fear of falling.

As for flaws...I can't write fantasy. Boo! I was hoping for horror or mystery. :P

Lux G. said...

This would be a great help to my brother who's serious with his fan fictions and novels.

sherry fundin said...

I hate spiders, but he is a cutie. :-)
sherry @ fundinmental

emaginette said...

I always thought of it as baggage. It comes from personal history and what mark was left behind. I never linked it to flaws. I guess I don't see them as bad things, just something that makes each character unique. :-)

Anna from elements of emaginette

Chrys Fey said...

Horror came in 3rd place and mystery 5th. Since fantasy won't be in the running next time, maybe one of them will win next year. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Great!

Chrys Fey said...

Isn't he?

Chrys Fey said...

Flaws can certainly be baggage. They can also be more than that. :)

Jeffrey Scott said...

Sounds like a great genre!!!!
My personality flaws is I care too much. Sometimes at my own expense, for others. May not seem like a flaw, but it's something that leads to allowing someone else to walk over you.
My biggest fear is abandonment. I have a fear and dread I'll likely die alone.

Jax said...

You though that spider was cute?! Lmao well, spiders may be my biggest fear. Lol!

Nicola said...

My MC's main weakness is her inability to open up and face her fears. Great post Chrys.

Chrys Fey said...

I can relate to that. I have the same flaw.

Many people share that fear as well.

Chrys Fey said...

Oh come on. You don't think that little guy is cute? :P

Chrys Fey said...

That is a great weakness for your MC to work through.

SK Anthony said...

Gosh! I love flaws!!!

I try to make my MC's and secondary characters have a combo of each. To me, it makes for interesting and compelling characters. Great post!!!

~~~
S.K. Anthony: Barnes and Noble Changing the Self-Publishing Game

diedre Knight said...

Wow! I think you just shed much-needed light in the closet that one of my characters currently lives in. She needs to come out and get sprinkled with freckles she despises or something! Funny, none of my characters have ever been flawless before...Thank you!
Me? Oh, I am a perfect mess (and not in a good way). I avoid scorpions and glass elevators.

Chrys Fey said...

I love flaws, too. At least my characters' flaws. ;)

Chrys Fey said...

Sprinkled with freckles. I love it! There's not nearly enough freckled heroines/MCs in books.

I don't like heights, so I'd avoid glass elevators, too.

Tamara Narayan said...

Flaw #1: Biting off more than I can chew. This week has become a marathon of email, planning posts, and dealing with kids who seem to need instructions for breathing. (So I won't be getting that guest post on Halloween vs. Day of the Dead to you quite yet, but October is two months away.)

Other flaws: bad temper that comes with a heavy dose of foul language.

Fears: telephone conversations, asking anyone for help for any reason, mastering new technology

Weaknesses: Migraines. There are so many triggers like candles, fires in fireplaces, movies in a dark theater, fireworks, stress, dehydration, and lack of food or sleep.

Mary Kirkland said...

That spider is cute. I like spiders. I don't like bee's, wasps, hornets..ect. It's more of a phobia. lol

Chrys Fey said...

I also stay away from those.

Chrys Fey said...

That's okay! You have plenty of time. :)

I can get a bad temper, too.

I hate talking on the phone, but it's not really a fear.

Migraines are not fun.