1. Spirit
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    Spirit Member

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    Flawed Characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Spirit, Sep 27, 2009.

    Am I the only one who has a pet peeve for perfect characters? they are just so hard to tell apart. The worst thing for me is when you can read the book in the first person, and by the end of it, you can beleive you would have done the exact same things as the character. to me, that is the absolute sign of a bland character, and I hate finding them. I love flawed characters.

    Does anyone else share this? Care to share your own majorly flawed characters? (I should say, by flawed I mean psychologicaly, not as in, a character which does not make sense to the reader)

    my favourite is a character I made called Martyne, he has a power which enables him to heat his body temperature up to 5000 degrees or higher (at which point he evaporates, there's lots of sciency stuff I worked out). He is a psychopathic narcasist, with a hidden phobia of fire (get the sneaky reference to his power?). He loves wise cracks and throughout the story I put him in he is subjected to a lot of emotional stress. He is one of those uncompromising, lovable characters. I like to think of him as a "bad guy" on the wrong side.

    Anyone else care to share?
     
  2. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Is there really a such thing as a perfect character?

    I think all, if not, most authors would say their heroes are flawed. Look at Harry Potter for instance. The books are loved by so many readers, but in the end, even his creator admits that he is flawed in an arrogant sense.

    I like characters who are very flawed. My two main characters are great examples. One is a fugitive who is on a quest to do something good, while the other does not want to until something happens and he wants revenge.
     
  3. Spirit
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    Spirit Member

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    There are some books in which the character is too...."neat". For example, if you've ever read "The Dream Merchant" the main character in that book was so normal that I forgot his name several times while reading it, however, the character Velesti in "Eyes of the Calculor" is crazed and extremely enjoyable.

    Maybe my phrasing could have been better, I hate conforming characters, and love those which are different.
     
  4. Maxtina
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    Maxtina Banned

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    I don't think you can have PERFECT Characters, why? Because you're tying to create a PERSON in your mind... now is there anyone in the world who can be absolutely perfect?! I don't think so!
    So just try to make your character believable, not PERFECT...
     
  5. B-Gas
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    B-Gas Contributing Member

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    It's fairly easy to create perfect characters. It's not the existence of "flaws," or lack thereof, that determines perfection. So far, I haven't seen any perfect characters being listed here, because perfect characters are determined not by their inherent programming but by how the narrative treats them. If they make real mistakes- mistakes that hurt their chances against the enemy, that allow their foes to get past their defences and really hurt them- then they're flawed, regardless of character flaws. If they demonstrate their flaws but the narrative still treats them as being right anyway, then they're perfect. A clumsy heroine who is clumsy once in the story, and that clumsiness makes her seem cute and vulnerable to her romantic interest, is not flawed.

    Example- all the fiery-spirited heroines out there that start their romantic relationship by punching the hero in the face (or similar manly, violent entrance). The narrative will immediately forgive them, the hero will think highly of them and the romance will begin. And the heroine will never punch someone out if it will actually make things harder for her- she'll restrain herself when talking to, say, the Town Guard, or talking to infuriatingly annoying children.

    In my story, my heroine has few real flaws. She doesn't comprehend magic, for the most part, but the main source of her problems is her utter loyalty to the city she lives in, and her hobby of sneaking into the old buildings and just looking around. This becomes a problem when her possibly-love interest is kidnapped. She gives chase, knowing, from nearby witness accounts, that the kidnappers were members of a cult that fills the villain role for the early part of the story. She finds the girl lying in the snow, bleeding- but she also sees the cult members fleeing the scene. She chooses to go after them. When she returns after being out-manoeuvred by the cultists, her love interest is gone. Trying to put that right drives the second half of the plot and gives my main a good dose of humility.
     
  6. sorites
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    sorites Senior Member

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    The type of character you're talking about is called a "Mary Sue." For what reason, I have no idea. Basically, it's a character who is perfect: stunningly beautiful, charming, smart, all the men want her, with-it emotionally, brilliant in bed, etc., etc. Basically, this character can do no wrong, and from what I've read, the author might fawn over her and explain repeatedly her overall greatness, hotness, or whatever.

    Obviously this type of character is boring. A flawed character is what you want. It's what the reader wants. Write someone who is less-than-perfect so you can put tension into your story. She can still be beautiful, smart, etc., but she's got to have flaws too to balance it all out, to make her interesting and worth reading about.
     
  7. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Take a Mary Sue character, and place her in a situation where she has to make a flawed choice because either choice she makes is flawed. Make her fall in love with a married man. She wants to do the right thing, but finds herself flirting and flirting.

    Make her choices slowly spiral out of control, until we see that Mary Sue has a dark side after all.

    I think character's choices are what matter most, not if they have a flaw like arrogancy or suffer from OCD; though, OCD can make a character interesting, like Monk.
     
  8. B-Gas
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    Even a perfect character can become flawed if they choose one thing they love at the cost of another. As long as that second cost is actually shown.
     
  9. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    I really don't mind perfect characters. However, the story must have a character I can root for. I find it very difficult to root for a "perfect" character. I want to root for a character that has some humanity. It would be very foolish to have a main character be perfect.
     
  10. Mr What
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    Mr What Member

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    I'm totally on your page. Perfect characters are boring. Why? There's a lot of reasons. First, nobody is perfect. Second, I have absolutely no interest in a character with no flaws. After all, if they don't have flaws, how the hell will there be conflict, struggle, etc all of which are crucial for any kind of drama. Third, perfect characters have a tendency to be idealised versions of the writer. And reading self-indulgent fantasies has a tendency to be more disturbing than entertaining. Now if it's say, a first person story, and a secondary character is illustrated as perfect for dramatic/motivational reasons, then I have no beef.

    They can also work, to an extent, in comedy and satire. But other than that? No thanks.

    Though, characters with no redeeming features, or too many flaws can be just as trite.

    Bottom line: I don't think characters neccesarily have to be flawed per se, but they need to be complex. Unless it's a secondary role.
     
  11. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    A flaw in a character is little more than a gimmick, up until the point where the character must face a dire consequence of that flaw.
     
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  12. Spirit
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    I think there are a lot of people who got hung up on the word perfect. I'll add a little definition for what I meant by "perfect"

    A character who has no real negatively defining characteristics, and makes no "wrong" choices.

    I prefer characters who make selfish choices, stick their foot in their mouth, act arrogantly, act cowardly...etc.

    I agree there are no "perfect" people, but I do not agree this means there cannot be any perfect characters, there are no eight foot demons on this planet (I hope) yet that is a perfectly feasable character.

    (sorry for any spelling mistakes, I was in a bit of a hurry)
     
  13. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmm... I thought everyone pretty much agreed to this basic fact.
     
  14. HPandtheMI
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    I like when a character first seems perfect but you end up finding how flawed they are.... An example of this is Jace in the Mortal Instruments.
     
  15. Spirit
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    One of my favourite characters is Seth from "Dusk 'till Dawn" the film by Tarantino. He is wonderfully jovial.
     
  16. Irish87
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    Irish87 Contributing Member

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    I love making perfect characters! Well, they have to be the villain. I have a bit of a love affair with villains, I tend to think they're really the main character and the protagonist is just along for the ride. Nevertheless, for their role, a villain is usually fairly perfect. Why does the villain always fall? Humans are not meant to be perfect, they will almost always destroy themselves.

    In truth, the perfect character is always the most flawed. He has to deal with a society of what he can most likely only perceive to be absolute failures. When it comes to humanity, perfection is absolute imperfection. We learn from our failures, we evolve and adapt. When you are perfect and cannot transcend yourself to become something better, then you become outdated and old. You become a pariah.

    I know, I know, I'm probably one hundred percent wrong, but I like to make my villains godly. Just because, however, they're godly does not mean they can't be toppled. Go ask Nietzsche.
     
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  17. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    If ever I read a book with a character I perceive to be 'perfect' cast in the leading role, I put that book down straight away. The sort of character I mean is one who has no faults and no flaws, never needs to go through a real moral dilemma to make a decision because of his clearly defined perfect morals, and whose hair is straight no matter what. Similarly, I despise those characters who have been advanced to where they are at a stupid age; the archetypal Mary-Sue.

    Right, so a character has morals, but must they always be his aid? Why can't they sometimes be the thing that draws him back? The character needs to kill a man to stop a threat to his family, but his own revulsion at killing creates a conflict. Similarly, a noble man might sacrifice himself for his country and his people, but he seems hell-bent on doing this even where it would be pointless for him to do so, simply because it seems right to him to hold up a relentless enemy to buy time the innocents he protects simply don't have.

    The best characters have those human flaws. Even the best traits of a person in real life can be flaws, and it's those imperfections that make people what they are. As such, characters need to reflect that, even in the most fantastic of scenarios.
     
  18. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    It's not about a character who is 'perfect,' but a character who always makes the right decision. Always. A character who is morally excellent in all manners, and is always proven to be correct.
    In many ways, it's not the character himself, but how everyone else interacts with him. Even if he IS entirely morally astute, there should always be someone to disagree and blur the line between right and wrong, because people are prideful creatures who do not lean to others' beliefs and ideas (right or wrong as they may be) easily.

    Me, though? I love perfect characters.
     
  19. CDRW
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    Wait a second. You're saying that a flawed character is one who does things differently than you would yourself?

    In reality it's not even possible to create a perfect character because it has been created by an imperfect creator. The real issue isn't perfection, it's lack of conflict. It's very possible, albeit very difficult, to create an interesting and compelling Mary Sue. Anti-Sues are just as boring as Mary Sues and just as annoying. The audience isn't going to relate to a character who's one gigantic ball of suck any more than they will a character who can do no wrong.
     
  20. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Exactly what I was thinking

    The character is perfect in the eyes of the author

    If you are seeing the character as perfect, well then... I don't know, it's just in your opinion.
     
  21. B-Gas
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    B-Gas Contributing Member

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    Perfect characters that make mistakes are more fun than weak characters who never fail.

    I think we have the wrong definition of "Perfect" for this thread. No offence to Spirit, but I'd like to submit my own:

    "Perfect" characters are defined as such not by their personalities or abilities or descriptions, but by their actions- A perfect character's actions, regardless of what others within the story say, are always right in the eyes of the narrative. They make the right choice. No matter what.
     
  22. AmandaC
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    Flawed characters are more interesting and more fun. I think flaws give them more dimensions and make them more human. It also makes them less predictable, giving us more freedom with them.
     
  23. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    We seem to have drifted from the original intent of this thread. But back to the premise.

    I have a tendency to write characters as initial Mary-Sues who I then bring down to earth. So it goes.

    Berendon has serious attitude problems for a long while, and he's a poor judge of character in that he tends to rely overmuch on those around him, in the organizations he belongs to. Some of that stems from practical reasons - he's only able to do unusual magic because it's killing him, and he knows he will likely die in his early forties. Or sooner. Or later, if he completely gives up magic, but since EVERYONE in this world has magic, that would leave him something like blind. He won't do it.

    Ossack is a reasonable guy in many respects, but he is also only part of what he was. He spent a lot of time revenging himself on those who killed his wife and invaded his country, and has since deliberately cut a lot of that out of his personality. When he undoes some of the cutting -- long story, involving new people trying to attack his new home -- he turns into a much less friendly guy. A lot more willing to kill, a lot less willing to show mercy.

    Aru is really by-the-book and OCD, gets in trouble for it -- long story short, he gets on the side of the wrong people and is kidnapped by the mob. They sell him to people who need expendable prisoners for dealing with monsters/aliens. He has to change quite a bit in order to get by, but he's not always right and frequently unsuccessful.

    Kevir is steady and reasonably independent but she likes to wait before making decisions, a trait that turns flaw when there's a war going on. She hesitates too long before moving her troops, and dies for it. (Reasonably heroicly, but then, a lot of people who died with her die "heroicly" where "heroicly" is defined as "while kicking butt in order to let the third lieutenant lead the rest of the troops back in a successful retreat.")

    Alice and Wyatt like adventure; they also glorify heroic tales and join the army against their parents' wishes, ultimately getting into a lot of trouble. Fun characters, but equally flawed -- Wyatt has a serious temper, and Alice has major issues with proving that she can handle herself even when she clearly cannot.

    There are other characters, but I think this has gone on enough. So. What flawed characters have you guys created? (Trying to get the thread back on track here ...)
     
  24. seije
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    This has me a little worried... One thing i hate is people behaving contrary to how a real person would act, or perhaps i should say, how a rational person would act. Most of my characters have a very logical approach to their decisions, while their character flaws come more from their personality than their decisions.

    for example, i have a character with very low self-esteem. He views his life's worth below that of others, and even sometimes weighs his possible death against the potential good it would bring (Kantian ethics iirc? been a while since i took that class :p)... for that reason, he often does the 'right' thing, because he's selfless. I will admit he does get into trouble because he doesn't defend himself until it's too late... Would you say the connection between his flaws and their consequences are too subtle? Should i try to make his flaws a bit more visible? Or should i tack on a few more flaws to make him a more dynamic character?
     
  25. B-Gas
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    Your selfless character is a bit too perfect. Getting himself into trouble because he won't defend himself is not a flaw, it's a self-sacrifice. It's a christ metaphor, and if there's one thing that screams perfect, it's a christ metaphor. If he gets other people in trouble because he won't defend them until it's too late, then he's closer to flawed; if he's secretly a narcissist who is nice and selfless because he believes it makes him better than others, and he gets other people in trouble because he wants to be more selfless than them, then he's deeply flawed. A story in which he loses that narcissism, or gains some self-esteem, and possibly loses his selflessness in the process, would be highly interesting- it would make other people wonder if his development was actually a good idea, but, since it's told from his perspective, he certainly believes that it was.

    People aren't logical. People aren't rational. They don't always do things for the right reasons, they don't always think things through, and they certainly don't do what they think will give them the best result every time. They do what worked before, they do what they know how to do, they do the wrong thing because they know how to fix the problem that it will cause and they don't know how to fix this problem.

    Flaws that don't make readers hate the character, or wince once in a while, are not flaws. Think about your friends- they all have something they do that irritates the hell out of you, but they're still your friends. They all have some character flaw that you could focus on and turn them into an enemy, but you don't, so they're friends.
     

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