For the longest time, I couldn’t finish my books and I couldn’t figure out why. It took me longer than I care to admit to realize it was because my characters were perfect – and not in the way that they’re a perfectly created character, but in that they overcame everything I threw at them, and they never faltered. They were perfect, and entirely unrealistic.
It’s an easy mistake to make, because for a lot of people, reading is their way of escaping reality. In the same way for me, as a young writer, my characters were often very similar to me with the exception that they always managed to do the things I’d wanted to. They were better than me.
But no one wants to read a perfect character. In fact, I would go to say readers are sometimes practically waiting for the MC to mess up. Writers are always told to push their characters, which is true, but remember that eventually your character is going to break. No one wants to see their hero’s beat up, and readers want to see their characters rise back up to the occasion even after they fall. It’s often how you can spot the MC. Who will keep pushing through even once they’ve been hurt? Your characters need to be strong, but ultimately, your character needs to be human (unless your character isn’t human, in which case you’re not off the hook. You still need to find a flaw), which means they are going to mess up. Put better, to be flawed is quintessentially human.
Don’t write perfect characters – write realistic ones.
You want your plot to be unique, and your characters help this. Make sure your characters aren’t 2-dimensional. Give your characters depth. So how do you find the right flaw for your character?
The flaw has to hinder your character from reaching his/her goal. The goal is what your character wants, what’s driving the plot forward. Don’t just give your character a flaw for the fun of it. It should make sense and fit the story. It should be something that matters. There’s no end to the flaws and weaknesses your character could have. Just remember that your character is going to make mistakes.
Another point I have to mention is that most of this seems to be talking about MCs, but if you want to add more depth to your novel, give your minor/supporting character flaws as well. It can be fun, even, to have characters whose flaws clash with each other. Don’t spend all your time on your MC. Your other characters need to be realistic, unique, and flawed as well.
What are some interesting flaws you can think of?