Re: How to write flaws in to characters

"Good" flaws are the ones, that make a story more interesting. And with a bit of fantasy that's possible for nearly any of them...
One of the easiest way is to look at the childhood of your characters. Whether being arrogant, an alcoholic, overly religious, fearful, .... Most of those are easily excused with something along of "the parents did XYZ" or "there was the time when" and those can make for a nice side-story. And those should of course have an effect in the story... a flaw without any consequence isn't a flaw. Even worse are the "positive flaws" like "he is too friendly". As long as you don't write a weird-ass comedy, don't use them.
Beside that... anything goes. Try to think of flaws that add flavour to your story and use those. Flaws can be a wonderful plot-device without a new "here is your next plot-thread" ass-pull.

Also... only use flaws for those characters where it matters. So your main characters and the inner supporting cast. No need to give a random shopkeeper who has 2 pages in your story a full set of flaws. No need to spell those out...

Re: How to write flaws in to characters

I'm not a good writer, but I'd like to throw my ideas about what good flaw means :
- Have real story behind the flaw. No one suddenly become an adult/teen, they start as a child and whatever the flaw they have when they grew up, there should be a reason behind it. Maybe the character is shy, and it's part of his/her natural personality, but just shy isn't a flaw, but if it's preventing them to do the right thing, to reach their full potential, etc, then it's a flaw. So how the shy nature develop into such degree? There got to be a story behind it.

- Give hints about the flaw, hints about the story behind the flaw Show don't tell? (Although I'm really bad at it).

- Protagonist should have flaw, but it can't be a flaw that offend the reader so much that they don't have any sympathy for the protagonist. So balance the flaw with some positive. Balance the flaw, by giving some reasonable or even sympathetic story behind the flaw (back to point no. 1).

- Best for me if the flaw, help to push forward the plot. So it's not just some decoration for the character, but part of the character's struggle throughout the story. The driving force behind the twist and turn in the story.

Re: How to write flaws in to characters

A good flaw could also vanish over time, preferably after the character paid in full for it. If you're really into hurting your character replace it with a counter-flaw with an associated cost later in the story.

Classic example:

Character is too trusting. Character gets badly betrayed. Character starts distruting people. Character hurts another character who should have been trusted. After this you could probably downplay that negative trait as your character (if you so want) finds a healthy balance between being naive and distrusting everyone.

Re: How to write flaws in to characters


BlockOfIce Wrote: If there's one thing I'd hate having in my story, it's bland characters. Although I'm not very sure on how to give my characters "good" flaws.

What are you trying to go for?  The theme of the book needs to reflect your character.  Look at some of the series you enjoy or you want to emulate.  Every writer draws on a 'muse' when writing, something that inspires their work.  You need to have that in order to construct something that reflects the heart.  If you don't know what you want to create, how are you going to construct it?

Grammar, spelling, these things, in my opinion, aren't the biggest issue.  Yes, in a finished product, but when you are getting into writing you should first focus on the reflection.  What is your mind trying to reflect on paper?  Understand that and then you have a basis on where you want to lead.  I find writing an adventure in itself.  I discover my character's path just as much as the readers that follow it and it's thrilling.  If it isn't like that for you then it won't turn into a good story.  You should aim to write something that if only you were to read it, it'd be worth it.

Re: How to write flaws in to characters

Hanmeng Wrote: Have real story behind the flaw ... Protagonist should have flaw, but it can't be a flaw that offend the reader so much that they don't have any sympathy for the protagonist. So balance the flaw with some positive. Balance the flaw, by giving some reasonable or even sympathetic story behind the flaw.

Yes! You should know WHY everything is the way it is. 

My protagonist tells a story early in my book about an experience he had in a cave when he was younger. He doesn't go into the lingering effects of the event in his storytelling, but later on, I have him in a pitch dark situation, trying desperately not to give away to his friends that he's panicking about being in the dark. I eventually mention that he sleeps with a candle burning every night, and when they have to camp while traveling, he doesn't rest well (it goes on to the point where he eventually gets an enchanted brooch that lets him see in the dark). Occasionally throughout the book, I continue to reference his fear of the dark, bringing it up in situations where I think it would naturally be an issue. It's not an important part of the story though. I could cut it all out if I wanted to, but then the character would be more boring. 

I do that often in my writing - even if I don't even bring the triggering events into the story directly, there's still a reason behind everything that goes on. 

Re: How to write flaws in to characters

Google 'the clues to a good story' and watch the TED talk. I promise that it will give you great ideas for character development and how to give them flaws. 
Other than that, my personal opinion is that a flaw should add something to the story. You know, conflict and all that.

I think a good example that most of us are familiar with is Naruto. If you could identify his core motivation, you'd probably hit on that fact that he was obsessed with belonging somewhere. He latched on to Sasuke as part of his 'family' and pursued that relationship to an unhealthy extent because he was afraid to lose him. Sure, a lot of his positive qualities came from this motivation, his tenacity for example, but he also made poor decisions because of it. Soooo... I guess my advice is to pursue motivations instead of flaws, but never outright state what they are. Readers hate being spoon-fed.

Another note in favour of motivations is that interesting inter-personal conflict can arise when a situation develops where motivations don't align. 

Re: How to write flaws in to characters

Huh, never really tried to specifically make flaws but read these:

So, the way I look at a flaw is it is a quirk that isn't necessarily detrimental. Sometimes it can bring the mc or the specific character a bad scenario and sometimes it can save them. When I think of a flaw I enjoyed, I immediately think of Genos from opm. He is wordy and thinks very deeply into things, sometimes to the point where he doesn't seem to be thinking much at all. I don't think you need to make a strictly detrimental flaw unless you want a char with shackles but bringing the flaw up too many times also can be awkward. If I read something and the flaw drives the comedy as well as the story, it turns into a forced slapstick comedy for me.

Hope that helps!

Re: How to write flaws in to characters

In my stories, I try to understand flaws as the point where a character diverges from a logical path. It's based around the idea of an expected outcome versus the actual outcome. A good flaw functions as an alternate but convincing reason for why these two outcomes aren't identical. These flaws are rooted in the experiences of the character and inform their daily interactions.
For example, some would say alcoholism is a flaw. Sure, but in a story it's not actually the word that makes the convincing flaw but rather how and why the character acts because of it. Maybe alcohol makes them aggressive and they've become an outcast because of it. They might hate themselves for what they did while drunk and have come to seclude themselves. In a story, you look at the effect of the flaw and work your way to the cause.

On a sidenote: A flaw that changes nothing is just fluff.

Re: How to write flaws in to characters

I'm no expert on character flaws, but I pull most of my ideas on how to go about it from things like D&D. Or more specifically, Fate Core. Being a writer can at times be fairly comparable to being a GM; theres just way too many things to manage lol. I like Fate in particular here because when it comes to things like characters, they have a decent system on giving you a way to sort of quickly make characters with some basic depth (that being something they call 'aspects.') Your characters suddenly wanna go to the library and you need a librarian that's not just the flattest piece of cardboard you've ever seen? Give him some aspects! A GM might have to scramble a bit to throw something together rather quickly, but thankfully, we're writers so we can take some time to really sit and think for a bit. This method can be used imo to just get you started on an important or main character, or to provide some needed depth to unimportant side characters that you don't want to seem too flat but that you also don't wanna spend forever trying to develop when they're only going to be around for like the one chapter.

I could spend forever here explaining their system in more detail, but I'd just recommend going to the Fate SRD site and reading up on their character creation and aspect sections if you are interested. Tons of useful stuff in there, especially since Fate has a kinda a big focus on creating good/relevant character flaws, since you really need them in order to gain 'Fate Points.' 

Re: How to write flaws in to characters

- Flaws must make sense. (This skips all the SAO BS examples)
- Flaws must impact the character and the world arround them.
- Flaws can not be overcome in a single oportune moment, nor be surpassed out of nowhere without any effort envolved. They require development, failures and moments to progress bit by bit towards development.
- There is a balance between character development happening too fast or too slow. Too fast makes it unbelievable and irrelevant, and too slow makes it boring and uninspiring.
- Characters co-existing with their flaw and learning to deal with it are just as important as overcoming their flaws, and when they do overcome them, the flaw is not errased, it gives place to other character traits that must be relevant and present in your character from that point onwards.
- Some flaws can not surpassed, they remain with the character which only develops ways to deal with it.