1. Happienumber
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    Happienumber New Member

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    Character flaws

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Happienumber, Dec 6, 2011.

    I have two major characters in my story that im not sure if i've given enough flaws and weaknesses to make them real and true.

    My first is tough becuase she is a super genius and has abilities in many feilds (physics, math, logic, she speaks five languages and plays several instruments). I want to give her an adaquate amout of flaws to offset her skillset. Arrogance is not a flaw option becuase although she acts very confident, she has very low self esteem becuase of emotional abuse as a child. So far these are the flaws ive given her:
    1. Gets wrapped up in her projects and "thinkng" things and often emoionally neglects her friends and family
    2. Very impatient with others when the dont grasp a concept/finish a task as fast as she would
    3. Has a fairly short temper and has a tendancy to chuck things at wall when mad
    4. Extreme adreniline addict- it takes the pain away. when especialy upset about somthing, this can turn to very dangerous life-threatenig activities.

    I didnt add any of these flaws specifically to offset her brain capacity, they just happened as part of how i feel my character. But it got to thinking maybe they are not enough and i should add more.

    My second character seems to have no flaws at all and thats bad news!!! Haha.
    He is a police detective who is very compasionate and involved with his cases (quite a bit too emotional which i veiw as a flaw but most people find endearing haha) he has guilt issues becuase as a yound man, he let his teenage brother drive is car and the brother hit and killed a seven year old. My character took the blame for the accident and said he was driving becuase he feels it is his fault. He can be forcefull and in control when he needs to be but he's uncomfortable in that role, and it most part of his life he can be hesitant and somtimes indecisive. (i get a similar feel off this character that i get off of peppernpots from the iron man movies. Not anything specific, just a general attitude)

    Any ideas for flaws/ other qualities i could add to fill out this character? He feels a little bit flat especially for a main character in a severl-book series.
    Thanks!
     
  2. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    I don't think that is the right approach to take IMO that you need to map out character flaws for each character you have. They have to have significance and have to make sense. It makes sense that someone that is a genius might favor logic over emotion (your first flaw), and maybe is out of touch with how smart "normal" people are. The third one doesn't really make sense to me. Because having a short temper means the person tends to favor the emotional over the logical... and that sort of clashes with the first "flaw".

    You don't need a specific number of flaws, the flaws can come from the strengths of the character itself if you just think about how the person would react in different situations. For example, you've talked about how the character is smart, gets wrapped up in her projects, probably favors logic over emotion. Think about what her opinion would be on religion for example. Probably someone that spent most of her life finding answers for things would probably not believe something that she can't confirm. Think about what her reaction would be to seeing a funeral... she might think about it in logic terms rather than emotional... or maybe it's one of those things she doesn't want to think about and thats where the adreniline addict thing comes into play. Think about what would happen if your character was challenged intellectually by another. It seems to me like she would have an ego and what to prove to this person that she is right and they are wrong. I think you have a good idea here but might be trying to hard is all I'm saying.

    You mention the Ironman movies when talking about your second character, but I think the first one reminds me a little bit of Robert Downy Jrs. Ironman character, and it would be kind of cool to see that in writing.
     
  3. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    Consciously trying to add a flaw to your character can make it come across contrived to the reader. Why not try writing about these characters and see what happens? Their flaws are going to come out more naturally that way. :]

    For the two main characters I've been working with for the past year and a half, K and L, I didn't sit and consciously pick flaws for either of them. However, they're no doubt imperfect: K is arrogant, a slob, stubborn, selfish, power-hungry, sadistic, vulgar, disloyal, has a dependency on alcohol and the word "sorry" doesn't even exist in his vocabulary; L is childish, naïve, a compulsive liar, clingy, jealous, evasive and has multiple (mental & physical) health problems but none of them have a significant effect on his quality of life. Before I began writing about them for the first time I only knew a little bit about each of them and it was through writing from their POVs that I was able to discover who they truly are.
     
  4. Happienumber
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    Happienumber New Member

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    Thanks for the feedback! The advice for letting my characters jus "become" what they are is great. Its what i did forthe first character but after reading some writing books and posts i was a little worried that i didnt round her ot enough. I think my problem is mostly with the delivery, not with her actually personality.
    About the short temper, she has this mostly because of deep undlying emotional issues (which she ignores most of the time by using logic/ adrenialine to distract her) and its less of a trivial "i just spillt coffee on my shoe so im angry and im going to break somthig" and more that she can be seen to ovverreact to situations that may seem trivial but that remind her of her past. Alhough you are exactly right in that it could come off as contradictory if i use it too much or dont explain i proporly.
    Its funny about iron man, she is kinda tony stark-ish at times.

    In her relationship with my second character, they take on very reversed roles (she has more guy-specific relationship issues and he is more emotional)

    I keep trying to wrte my second character out of his flatness but im having trouble. Maybe i should "interveiw" him.
     
  5. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Another thing about character development and flaws and all that though... when telling your story, the readers aren't going to know everything about your characters from the get go. They'll probably know the obvious stuff up front, but the rest will be revealed through the decisions they make and actions they take. As long as you are consistent with the decisions your characters make I don't think you'll have an issue.
     
  6. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    a thought that crossed my mind when reading the description of the second character: would he be able to become a police if he took the blame for the incident=has a criminal record?
     
  7. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    If it was an accident then yes.
     
  8. Happienumber
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    Happienumber New Member

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    Same thought occured to me when i was writing i and i reserched it, and yes its fine if it was determined not to be intentional.
     
  9. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, thanks. I'm glad to hear that. I don't really know how these things work :)
     
  10. RobinWriter
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    RobinWriter New Member

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    I love a good flawed character; regarding the female character - perhaps you could think about a smarty pants that you know yourself? Or Albert Einstein comes to mind - I read a biography ages ago which mentioned all sorts of quirks, such as complete indifference regarding his clothing, etc. A quick peek at his wiki might provide some ideas.
     
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  11. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I wouldn't get so wrapped up in making a character have flaws or how many they have etc. It gets easy to box your character in and not give them room to grow if you have a very tight list of what they are and aren't.

    What I do with my characters when I sorta map them out is just a very bare outline. 3-5 good qualities, 3-5 bad qualities, 1-3 major life events they've experienced, what they look like (again just very bare I don't go super detailed at this point) and, then I just write. The rest comes to me as I write. It's easier to give them room to grow that way. They really take on a life of their own if you don't box them in.
     
  12. Happienumber
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    Happienumber New Member

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    I would love to interveiw a police officer to fill this character out. However he is supposed to be a cop from scotland. Im sure thats going to be alot different in day-to-day that the same job over here? I mean the basics are the same but perhaps the details wouldbgive me more insight into small personality quirks. I will see what i can do in my research, thats a good idea. Thank you.
     
  13. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    I'm like that, actually.

    I'm a very curious, scientifically minded, intellectual person, and I love to analyze things. It's to the point where often when someone describes something that's upset me, instead of feeling sad for them my mind starts analyzing their psychology (I'm a psych student). Not that it shows, because I just use the opportunity to practice my counseling skills on them, which comes across as being quite sympathetic and caring. Even with my own experiences, I will often analyze them intellectually instead of just feeling the emotions.

    But when I get triggered (I was sexually abused) then it's like a switch flips. I'm pure emotion, and unable to think logically. Everything is about what emtional meaning it has to me. I have screaming meltdowns about once a month now (it increases with stress, it was twice a week at my lowest time). During these I'll say all sorts of hurtful things, things I know logically are not true, but I believe them emotionally.

    It's almost like I have a split personality. My logical and emotional sides do not really communicate. Usually my logical side is in control and my emotional side is a silent observer, but when I get triggered, this is swapped and part of me is silently analyzing my meltdown while the rest of me is busy screaming and crying.
     
  14. Froggy
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    Froggy Member

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    Hmm, just watch out that is doesn't become too close to "bones" the tv show. ;)

    I see logic as a defense mechanism to keep feelings out or control them. Adrenaline then would counteract that and make her feel alive whilst probably not having to deal with any stray thoughts. But, a logical person would stay away from actually dangerous activities, unless she has a death wish.

    As for the guy, not sure, he's got to have a reason for what he does, other than 'he wants to help people', '... and world peace' :p

    I tend to make my characters too good, then halfway into the first conflict, i realize they just breeze through - BORING.
    The better your characters are equipped, the harder their struggles have to be. If you find they are coping with everything too well, then maybe take away one ability and see how that changes things.
    Say she's great at logic and math, maybe even chemistry. but language baffles her. connecting to people is hard for her. then have her try and talk to someone with no knowledge of English.

    knowing your characters flaws is important, but they have to be established, not quoted.
    Indiana Jones doesn't go and tell his buddy he is scared of snakes, but we see him getting tense, almost hysterical, when confronted with one. Later, they become the obstacle he has to overcome, drawing on his motivation and other abilities. Oh, and maybe he hates cereal, but we'll never know, because it's not relevant.

    I'd be worried about an indecisive character, he won't go pushing your plot forward, unless you crank the pressure way up. Indecisive policeman, doomed to desk duty, too dangerous to have in the field. Why is he a policeman? Why does your story need him to be? Even a florist makes decisions. Taking the blame was a decision.

    His attributes clash so badly with his job, you have to wonder why he went that way in the first place, and secondly, how he managed to get there. Even if his bully father, the police chief, made him go to the academy, that same bully would not make it easier on him to graduate. He could put on a brave face, try and act his way through, but at some point he'd break and not be able to take it anymore. Especially if he cares too much about the crime victims, gets too involved in everyone's sob story. Then finds out they all lied to him, and some are even guilty boo hooo hooo...
     
  15. UnknownBearing
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    UnknownBearing Contributing Member

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    In my opinion these are common "flaws" to give to your perfect character when you realize they're too perfect to be believable. When I wrote a character who gained telepathy/telekinesis/increased intelligence, I gave him the background of being a high-functioning autistic. Think about something that will ACTUALLY have an impact on the character.

    This guy already seems messed up with guilt and self-loathing. Nothing needed here.
     
  16. Happienumber
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    Happienumber New Member

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    For sure, she's actually not very brenan-ish. She's not as structured or dry (if youve ever heard of myers-briggs, devon-my character- is very ENTP whereas brennan is most likely INTJ. their both NT's- logic over feeling, forward thinkers- but devon is very extroverted and make-it-up-as-you-go). She ignores most emotions except for making sure she has "fun"- which often includes veiwing other people like toys to manipulate (since we're on the subject of "like that tv show", kind of like the mentalist when he messes with peoples minds just for the fun of it). She comes accross as very casual and cheerful but its very surface- when you ask too many questions or go too deep, thats when alll the walls go up. She runs on poker- logic, not chess- logic. Yeah, i'm really uncertain of where to go with Jack (the cop). It is imperitive that he's a cop for the storyline, but i feel like ive got to change somthing around. He seems counter-productive. Ive never had such trouble with a character before. Im trying to think of what on earth could make him want to be a cop. I was thinkng maybe someone in his past was murdered or dissapeared and it was never solved and he wanted to be the person that got justice for people like that. But thats really boring. Im not sure how to mix that up.
     
  17. Happienumber
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    Happienumber New Member

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    Yeah, those wern't the flaws that i gave her, they were the ones she "came with" so to speak haha. The ones that automatically happened when I was writing her in action. But you did sort of answer what my actuall question was, which was "are those built in flaws enough?" which i guess is no. What do you mean by "ACTUALLY impact the character"?
     

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