1. Clockwork Knight
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    Clockwork Knight New Member

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    Flawless Character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Clockwork Knight, Jul 14, 2008.

    I recently realized something really unpleasant. One of the major characters in my novel has no flaws. He's tall, hansom, smart, nice, very artistic, and to top it off, takes martial arts. This makes for a boring character.

    The problem is, all of these traits come for parts of the plot. I would think of things I wanted to happen to him, and then add traits so it could. This has led to all of them being plot-important. Luckily, I've only planned that much, I'm not that far with the actual writing.

    Right now I'm trying to create flaws to balance him out. The best I've come up with are he's very self-doubting (e.g. he things is painting are horrible, he can't do anything well) and just general shyness. I'm fairly sure it's not enough.

    So to sum up: I've got a God on my hands, one who needs to be brought back down to earth. Any suggestions?
     
  2. Rebekkamaria
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    Rebekkamaria Senior Member

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    Um, I've never understood this kind of character creation... meaning, adding flaws to your character.

    There is no point of him being self-doubting unless you create him a history that makes it plausible. He's handsome and seems to be good at many things so why would he be shy and self-doubting? We people aren't just character traits. We have personalities, histories, things that have hurt us, things that have molded us. Use that. Think of his history, not just the plot. That way you'll find out more about him.

    A flawless character can work if you write him well. There's sometimes a reason for characters like these. Maybe you want to say something as a writer with this kind of a character.

    Hmm... I always try to create people, not characters. If you think about your family or friends you'll notice that they are not just their flaws and merits. They are living breathing beings who can change all the time.
     
  3. hellomoto
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    hellomoto Contributing Member

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    I agree with Rebekkamaria, I do not see why you are looking for flaws in his character trait. :confused:
     
  4. writinginsecret
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    writinginsecret Member

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    I also must agree somewhat with Rebekkamaria,

    I think that characters, in and of themselves, are as individual as the story. Just remember that your character's true identity (and flaws) are revealed by how that character reacts (or how you make the character react) to what is thrown his or her way in the story. This is where your character's flaws should be revealed. Maybe this character's only flaw would be that the character does not seem to have any flaws. Maybe the character is too perfect and this will create a source of conflict for other characters (and the main) in your story.

    Hope this helps. Just tell your story with the character you've created and allow things to happen. Get into the character's head to help him/her make decisions and I garauntee your character's flaws will be fleshed out. No human can create perfection as one imperfect mind can only spawn another.

    JL
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    To develop plot, you need to place obstacles before your character. Some of these may suggest flaws, or at least vulnerabilities, you can add to/expose in him.
     
  6. Amarantha
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    Amarantha Member

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    Often a character's traits will have downsides that make him more realistic. For example, if he is handsome, perhaps he's vain as well. Since he's kind, he trusts others to share his good intentions and is an easy target for deception. Think of how your character reacts to problems; what mistakes would he make?

    As Rebekkamaria suggested as well, examine your character's history. What did he go through before the story began? Not everything that happens to us shapes us for the better, and vulnerabilities will arise. Most of my characters have elaborate backstories that won't make the book at all, but coming up with these histories helped me determine what made my characters who they are.
     
  7. fantasywriter
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    fantasywriter Contributing Member

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    Every person has flaws; you and I both have flaws. Why can't characters have flaws as well? This god-like character of yours actually relates to one of my good friends. He is handsome, nice, artistic, and perfect, but his perfection makes him arrogant, and he considers himself better than everyone else. Maybe that could be your character's flaw; he thinks he is perfect. It could make for quite an interesting character, actually.
     
  8. Clockwork Knight
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    Clockwork Knight New Member

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    Thank you all for your suggestions, they've helped a lot. I think I know what to do.
    I'll leave him as is, but add those flaws. He can be a foil for the main character (who is far from perfect). Like Rebekkamaria said, good writing will make him work, and I think I'm up to the challenge. And who knows, maybe flaws will come out as I write more.

    By the way, the only reason I was adding flaws to the list like that was because he was just that; a list. He was only a collection of traits, not a real character yet. I figured I could throw in some balancing elements before he really developed.

    Well, thanks again, all of you. I really appreciate your help.
     
  9. B-Gas
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    B-Gas Contributing Member

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    If you're going to add flaws, make sure they REALLY REALLY hinder the character. It's all well and good to say the guy's flaw is pride, but if he doesn't think 'proud' and doesn't make a few enemies because he's so full of himself, it doens't count.

    Easy way to put a flaw in a character- change the way they think, without necessarily changing what they do. Saving the princess for the sake of it is an altruistic action; saving her for the reward is a greedy action; saving her to prove your awesomeness is a proud action; saving her to take home and do what you will with her is a vile action. But they are all saving the princess, in the end. Except, perhaps, for the last one.
     
  10. ap Oweyn
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    ap Oweyn Member

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    One. He's not a god. I'm 6'1". Some people (however misguided) think I'm handsome. Others think I'm nice. I have a master's degree. And I've practiced martial arts for 25 years now.

    A god? Hardly. I have self-doubts, asthma, bum kidneys, a Robin Hood complex, a rocky relationship with family members, a history of bad (and well-deserved) break ups, etc. And, despite being reasonably intelligent, I'm still capable of paralyzingly stupid acts.

    People are complicated. Characters, on the other hand, are only as complicated as you make them. But rest assured that it takes a fair amount more than you describe to be flawless.


    Stuart
     
  11. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    I see a fundamental flaw in your character. To explain it, let me tell you a short parable:

    Once upon a time, a world class martial artist was traveling to Japan on a sailing ship to participate in the famous Banzai Karate Challenge. A terrible storm sank the ship. The tough karate master defied all the odds and found a deserted island in the last moments of his waning strength.

    Ten years later, a passing ship spotted his hut on the beach and sent a rescue party. They were surprised to only find a single resident on the island.

    "Master Hashimoto, where are the other survivors?"

    "I am alone. Nobody else survived."

    "But, why are their three huts?"

    The old master replied, "This hut near the beach is my home where I cook and sleep. That hut close to the palm tree is my dojo. I practice my Shotokan Karate five hours each day and burn palm frond wicks in honor to the ancestors of my lineage."

    "What about that other hut near the hill? Is that yours too?"

    The old man spat on the ground. His face crinkled into a deep sneer. "That is the dojo of the Okinawan art Shorin-Ryu. Some day we will fight, and when I win, I will burn down their dojo!"


    My point is one man's martial art is another man's flawed fighting system. Wing Chun Kung Fu evolved specifically to defeat the hard style art called Shaolin Kung Fu, practiced by the warriors of the ruling class. Wing Chun used "soft style" movements to trap and defeat the force-based hard-style movements characterized by the Shaolin system.

    No matter which martial art style your "god" has mastered, there is always another system that can exploit its weaknesses. This might make for a fun subplot as he runs up against a nemesis who has mastered the counter-system.
     
  12. DrJoe
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    DrJoe Member

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    What everyone else has said goes. I don't think there's ever been a person who's walked this earth who isn't flawed in some way. In fact, crackpot psychologists try to capitalize on the idea that there is a "perfect" person, a standard of mental health that we must all live up to. Everyone is flawed somehow, and I believe that it's impossible to create a human character in writing without flaws in much the similar way that no matter how "normal" you would seem to be, you're still flawed.

    As everyone else has said, his perfection could result in vanity, resulting in his downfall. He might always be striving to be better than he is because he worries that he's not good enough. He might worry that people only like him because of his looks and not his personality, thus becoming paranoid about his relationships with females (or males if he's gay of course!!). there's many flaws you could give him.
     
  13. SonnehLee
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    SonnehLee Contributing Member Contributor

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    Alright, Salty, you need to explain. I don't get it...
     
  14. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Emily,

    The man on the island is alone, yet he builds three huts. One to live in...understandable. One to worship his art and ancesters...again understandable. When he chooses to build the third hut, he is demonstrating how strong his contempt and concern is for the competing art. It's also intended to be a bit amusing that someone alone on a deserted island would engage in the silly act of building a place just so he could loathe it.

    With regard to the OP, someone may be at the pinnacle of accomplishment in one form of martial arts, but there is always another style or practitioner who may be better. This demonstrates a potential (and very realistic) vulnerability of the god-like character.
     
  15. Gone Wishing
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    Gone Wishing Contributing Member

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    I suddenly feel a great need to resist the temptation of claiming my kung fu is better than anyone else's... :rolleyes:

    It's true, however, that the strengths of any character could also be exploited as weaknesses. Even being tall - ask any tall person and I'm sure they will be able to tell you that it has its disadvantages as well as advantages. :)
     
  16. inkslinger
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    inkslinger Contributing Member

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    I don't see why someone who is tall, handsome, smart, and a great artist would be shy and pessimistic about their abilities. Maybe make him arrogant and smug .... instead of him doubting the greatness of his painting, have him over estimate the genius of it. A cocky character makes for an easily annoying one. It would help make him more dimensional.

    Or even, you can have him be arrogant/smug/show-off on the outside, while really there's this underlying insecurity he has. He really does self-doubt himself, but to make up for it and show other people he's not doubting his abilities, he convinces himself he's better than he is.

    There's many other flaws he can have ..... he can be stubborn or hardheaded. He can be condescending intellectually since you say he's smart or he can just plainly be shallow. There are so many bad traits to give a character. Then again, I can always think of more cons for a character than pros, lol.
     
  17. Heather Louise
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    Heather Louise Contributing Member Contributor

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    To be honest with you, and this might just be me and my tendency of being emotionally connected to my charectors, through default, I find my charectors have similar drawbacks as I do myself, as they are coming from me, and being, for example, very self doubting, I find it hard to write in the prespective of someone who never doubts themself. I would just write and see what drawbacks occur to your charector naturally, rather than specifically giving him some, as it can seem forced and not really work.
     
  18. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    I agree, you already have the 'kernal' of your character, so instead of island-hopping, hoping to find the perfect dojo, get your ass down and start writing. No matter what list of traits you line up for you character, absolutely nothing is going to happen or evolve unless your pen hits paper, or your fingers hit those keys. Stephen King has a method, which not everybody would agree with, but...Start writing and let it take you where it wants to go. Get your quota down each day and, after initial revision, carry on and see how it develops. Probably close to literary improvisation? Anyway, nothing says you can't rewrite, but one thing's for sure - unless you begin, you'll still be waiting for that rescue boat to arrive. Maybe that's a good thing, you'll have plenty of time to build all the dojos you like.:)
     
  19. Clockwork Knight
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    Clockwork Knight New Member

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    Just wanted to say thanks again.

    After reading all of these suggestions and ideas, I feel kind of stupid for thinking this was such a big problem. Oh well.
     
  20. Heather Louise
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    Heather Louise Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't be daft, there is no such thing as a little problem if someone actually cares about it. You weren't sure so you asked, that is what we are here for. :)
     
  21. rumplestiltzkin
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    rumplestiltzkin Member

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    I'd suggest starting to write a little bit, first. I've had some characters where at first glance they were flawless (even though that "first glance" was a 5 hour glance) but when I started writing, and got to know them better, I found out that they really weren't perfect, exactly...so I guess that's what I'd do, to start out. It might not be great alone, but in combination with what everyone has said, it might help.
     
  22. Chef Dave
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    Chef Dave Member

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    Would it be possible for this character to be intelligent but not wise?

    In the CBS television series, Due South, the mountie character, Benton Fraser, was handsome, caring, strong, intelligent etc. The fact that women were throwing themselves at him somehow went over his head.

    You might also consider the movie, Blast From the Past. In this story, the character Adam Fraser grows up in a nuclear fall out shelter. His paranoid father built the shelter and during the Cuban Missile crisis, he had his family take refuge in this shelter. By coincidence, an Air Force pilot had engine problems and had to eject. His jet crashed into the house. The impact convinced the family that a nuclear war had started.

    When Adam Fraser emerged from the shelter to replenish supplies, he was intelligent, handsome, and caring ... but hopelessly naive by current standards.
     
  23. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I understand your concern. Many great books MC have at least one flaw.

    In Fear Nothing, by Dean Koonts, the MC Christopher Snow was born with XP. A disease that makes it so his cells do not repair them selves from UV damage. As a result he has to stay away from light as much as possible. But the story throws him into much danger, and that becomes rather hard. He will die young, and he knows that. It is a miracle he is still alive. One of my favorite characters is Christopher Snow, I love him, and I would not if it was not for the fact he has XP.

    What about Paul in Dune? His flaws were more subtle, and by the time he became Maudib, he over came most of them.

    Even great truly god-like characters have flaws. Clark Kent for example. He is shy, and vulnerable to Kryptonite. Smallville does a good job expressing his weaknesses.

    Your characters weakness could be a slight mental disorder. Despite the mental disorder, he has become successful, but it causes him to be uncertain of his greatness. He could be bipolar.

    Maybe he suffers from nightmares and has to take pills just to sleep at night. And perhaps he has a few phobias that get in the way of life.

    Maybe his weakness is that he lets people take advantage of him, and push him around. It is why he took martial arts, but he is to much of a push over to use that knowledge yet.
     
  24. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    I think some of the most interesting characters seem flawless on the outside. Maybe readers can't relate to the character on the outside but when they ultimately fail and overcome it, everyone can relate to that.
     
  25. Irontrousers
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    Make him a racist. Like, hardcore.
     

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