1. Andrew Rosemel
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    Andrew Rosemel Member

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    My characters are too perfect.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Andrew Rosemel, Apr 28, 2016.

    Every time I create characters, or write about them, they end up being impeccably perfect. They have no flaws or weaknesses, and are skilled in practically everything they do.
    I often get inspired by noticing the vulnerabilities in everyday people, but when it comes to giving my characters imperfections, it never seems to fit. Are there any tips or advice on how to give my characters flaws?
    -Andrew
     
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  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Do you know what your story is going to be about when you start writing? Not the plot, not what's going to happen, but what the story is going to be about, on a deeper level. If you have that it becomes easier to direct the shape of the character to fit that need. Mary Sue and Marty Stu have pretty much nothing to say or learn or any direction to grow. You need to give them a direction to grow if this is happening to you. If you wrote a story, say, about forgiveness, you immediately have a general set of things that will need tackling.
     
  3. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    Flawed characters are more fun to write. I'd be bored to tears writing perfect characters. Why are you finding it difficult to give your characters flaws, quirks or failings?
     
  4. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It is impossible to make your character perfect. If you don't write your characters well, they will come out wooden and or artificial.
     
  5. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    Spend some time thinking about the people in your immediate vicinity: your family, friends, coworkers, or classmates. Observe them. Dissect their behavior (just the behavior. Not them.), examine their flaws. As an exercise, write a short story involving some of these people. Make it something simple like trying to get to a gas station when their car breaks down. Doesn't even have to be that interesting. Put the actual flawed people from your life into a fictional situation and write a few pages about it. This will get you used to injecting flaws into your characters.

    On the practical side of things, I show flaws in my characters by having them give bad advice, doing something wrong, stating an incorrect fact, or completely losing their shit when a gigantic undersea spider crab monster is bearing down on them.

    hope this helps!
     
  6. DeadMoon
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    DeadMoon Contributing Member Contributor

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    My characters seem to have more flaws then strengths. I guess that's how I see myself and therefor reflect in the characters I create.
     
  7. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Take something they're most interested in, and make them fight against a twisted version of it.

    For instance: a mother/father wants what's best for her/his child, but when her/his child reveals that he/she is...

    a) gay/lesbian/bi/transexual
    b) converting to a religion mother/father disagrees with
    c) is falling in love with a person from a race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, or culture the mother/father dislikes
    d) all of the frickin' above

    ...the mother/father must now figure out what matters most: her/his own feelings, or the happiness of the child.

    See what I mean? By flaw, have it impact the story in a big way, something that will define what will happen to the characters in the events of the book.

    Or maybe a person is hateful because of some pain he/she suffered in the past and has trouble letting go.

    Or maybe someone's so self-reliant and stubborn that they refuse help at the risk of their own life. “No, go away emergency helicopter! I don't need help getting off of Mount Everest, I can do that myself! Even though I'm frostbitten and half-dead, I can bloody well do this myself!!

    Give them a trait and make them fight a twisted version of that trait. Have that trait work against them.
     
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  8. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    By the way, I was just thinking. Agent Cooper from the show Twin Peaks is an AWESOME character, who was very well received by audiences, and he wasn't flawed, he was just pretty awesome.
     
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  9. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You are obsessed with social awareness.
     
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  10. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    You missed it. You missed that glorious opportunity to say: “SJW ALERT! SJW ALERT! SJW ALERT!” You missed it, and now you must hand in your Internet Card™. This is your flaw. :p
     
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  11. FaythFuI
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    FaythFuI Member

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    I think taking a step back from your characters and looking at yourself or other people in your life will help you. Think about your strengths as a person, but also think about your weaknesses. If you're having a really hard time making characters have imperfections, try doing a short freewrite about yourself - write a scene where you're in a situation that displays one of your weaknesses. This may help you get ideas for what weaknesses your characters can have, and how those weaknesses make them who they are. In honesty, you can't have perfect characters - they aren't dynamic enough to stay interesting for long. As readers, we want to see characters we can personally relate to - and readers like seeing characters struggle with their weaknesses because that's what makes them human. It's even more satisfying to see them overcome those weaknesses. Hope these ideas help!
     
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  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I feel the need for details.

    How do they come out perfect? That is, are they instantly perfect, or do they do something that annoys, and you correct it?

    What if you deliberately wrote them doing something imperfect--would you be able to, or would you be so uncomfortable that you wouldn't be able to write the words?

    Are there any characters at all that are imperfect? For example, do you have the perfect main character and his perfect parents, and then the imperfect annoying kid next door? What if you switched over to make the annoying kid the main character?

    Can you give any specific examples of one of these characters?
     
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  13. Miller0700
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    Miller0700 Contributing Member

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    Find something that you see perfect in them and write the complete opposite of it. If they're nice, make them rude and mean. If they all-powerful, make them weak and vulnerable. If they're generous, make them selfish and self-centered. Hopefully you get the picture.
     
  14. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    Coincidentally, I just finished reading a comic about perfect characters (Ensign Sue Must Die!) I found this post in the comments section:

     
  15. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    FYI, headstrong and cocksure is about the lamest, most cliched flaw you can think of.
     
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  16. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    Whenever things seem to be going too well for one of my characters i always think, "How would the disaster that is my life find a way to ruin this for me?"
     
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  17. No-Name Slob
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    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    My disaster of a life drives my stories. Lol. I have to actually work really hard to give my characters noteworthy redeeming qualities, more than simply, "Ya know, they're human. Being human is redeeming in and of itself."
     
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  18. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, you could start by making them totally unskilled in some areas. If it's an area they want to be skilled at, this will be frustrating for them, especially if it's a skill they will never be able to acquire. (Always wanted to be a concert violinist but is tone deaf...) Frustration brings out many 'flaws' in people.

    The 'skills' notion might be a good place to start, because it's neutral. Nobody is skilled at everything. One of the most skilled people I know (a person who more or less succeeds at everything he tries to do) worries constantly that he's going to screw up. The fact that he's practically never failed doesn't reassure him. It makes him feel that his number is coming up, and he's way overdue to fail big-time. It's an odd experience, reassuring somebody who never fails that they're not going to fail.

    I think @Wreybies has the right idea, however. The problem might not be with your characters, but with your story (or lack of story.)

    Stop concentrating on your characters and start giving them things they need to accomplish instead, or things they need to escape from or deal with. Then ...do NOT make it easy for them to do these things! Make it as hard as you can. Even go so far as to make it impossible.

    Give them a problem that has no solution. Or one that will be a no-win no matter what direction they take. The rock and the hard place idea. These kinds of story problems will bring out strengths AND flaws in your characters—and keep readers glued to the page as well. If your characters get out of a situation too easily, or solve a problem right away, then you're making them too perfect. So don't let them win. Or at least don't let them win easily. And if they do 'win' or survive, always leave a residue of trauma from their experiences that will never go away. That's what life is like, isn't it?
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2016
  19. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's (I'm guessing here) because you write your characters before you build your plot.

    Try it the other way around. Write the plot and then look for a character who will have a hard time making the plot work. Not impossible, just hard.
     
  20. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Doesn't that seem counterproductive? I suppose there's a way to do it without completely killing the story but, yeah, it does sound very hard.
     
  21. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    No.

    Try it sometime. It's one of those things that has to be experienced.
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2016
  22. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    All right, I'll give it a go.
     
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  23. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I do it both ways m'self.
     
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  24. Sack-a-Doo!
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    The essence of story derives from two things (the way I heard it, anyway):
    - conflict, and
    - struggle.

    Let's say that in order to achieve the story goal, the MC must climb a high tower to retrieve a delicate piece of medical equipment (can you tell I'm just pulling ideas out of my ass?) needed to save poor Nell who's dying of some horrible affliction caused by exposure to dry rot.

    Everything you need to know about the characters is right here.
    • the MC should be afraid of heights (how else can the reader experience the terror of the climb) so we need two earlier scenes (rule of three) where this comes up, just not as drastic, and MC backs down from the challenge both times,
    • Nell means a lot to the MC; why else would he overcome his fear and climb the tower? (daughter, wife, girlfriend, grandmother even?)
    • Nell lives in a terrible neighbourhood (dry rot, remember?), so these people are likely all poor, which forces them to be self-reliant,
    • the antagonist is a real dickhead (because he must be the person who put the medical equipment up on the tower; he might even be flying around the tower in a helicopter shooting at the MC while he's climbing which makes him rich which implies this is a class struggle and there you have your theme)
    • and why did the dickhead—I mean: antagonist—put the medical equipment up the tower? Not just because he's a dickhead. He wants Nell for his own nefarious reasons (she's his favourite housemaid and just quit, she's the control subject of an experiment studying the effects of dry rot on humans, or she's pregnant with his baby and since he can't have a bastard heir wandered around and messing up his family's holdings he wants her dead-dead-dead!)
    • plot out scenes that show (in an interesting way) how the three characters ended up in this situation.
    So, we don't need to know the names of third grade teachers or whether or not any of them like ice cream (well, everyone does, but still) or even what colour hair any of them have. We just need to know what they're doing, why they're doing it and whether or not they'll succeed.
     
  25. Andrew Rosemel
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    Andrew Rosemel Member

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    I'm really sorting out the basics of my story right now. I do have some imperf
    I've actually never thought about that aspect in my writing. I try to create realistic characters, and an awesome plot, but without a deeper understanding if how their character grows and progresses throughout the story, I can't truly do that. So that is probably one out of many reasons why I am having this problem.. Thank you very much for your response! It really has helped me, and I appreciate it.
     
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