1. Middie
    Offline

    Middie Member

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2016
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    Arizona, USA

    Would a character be boring if I wait to show his flaws?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Middie, Jun 20, 2016.

    In a four-book series I'm planning, one of the main characters (there are five of them, but he has probably the second-largest role) is seen as pretty much perfect by most of the other characters. In the first book, he's mainly seen through the first main character's point of view, and he's absent for the majority of the second book except for memories and such. As a result, it isn't really until the third book--which is mainly from his perspective--that any real major flaws are revealed. However, for a reader who wouldn't know about these character flaws ahead of time, would he be considered a boring, "Gary-Stu" type character for the first half of the series? Would it be beneficial to hint at some of these flaws during the small sections of the first book that are from his perspective, even though they won't be explained in detail until later?
     
  2. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,922
    Likes Received:
    5,458
    What kind of flaws are we talking about? A character should be imperfect within, oh, paragraphs of their introduction. But maybe you're talking about something else.
     
  3. Middie
    Offline

    Middie Member

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2016
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    Arizona, USA
    Basically, this character's flaws sort of stem from the idea that character traits are on a sliding scale -- a good character trait can be in the middle, but a flaw can be in either direction. The protagonist is sort of seeing what he's not (he doesn't get angry, he doesn't act selfishly, he doesn't lie, etc.) when his flaws are actually the opposite side of the scale (he lets people walk all over him, he won't stand up for himself, he won't ask for help, he's a rather bad judge of character because his first instinct is to trust everyone, etc.). While the first main character's major flaws stem from the fact that she thinks too much of herself, his major flaws are on the opposite side of the scale because he thinks too little of himself.

    Throughout the series, there are five main characters. The point of view changes thorughout the books, but each book sort of has a central character, or set of characters, that it focuses on. In the first book, it's the main protagonist, who doesn't recognize his flaws and gets annoyed at him for being too perfect. Then he's absent for the majority of the second book, and the third book is mainly from his perspective, as well as another character that's with him at the time, and that's sort of when more sides of him are revealed. I'm wondering if the third book might be a little late to finally reveal some of his main character flaws, though.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2016
  4. Son Gon
    Offline

    Son Gon Member

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2016
    Messages:
    14
    Likes Received:
    13
    I think in this case while you wait for the character's flaws to be revealed, you could focus on what makes him relateable and why it matters what his goal is. By the time his flaws appear, the reader will care more because of the danger those flaws pose and how they can get in the way of whatever he's doing
     
  5. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,085
    Likes Received:
    671
    I think you are failing to understand the concept of a flaw. Or at least that is my theory based on how you phrased it.

    The problem with Mary Sue is primarily they are the main character and by not being challenged there is no investment to the idea of failing. No sense of danger is boring.

    So if the character is more a side character, it would be perfectly fine for them to seem perfect at first. Like, for example. Imagine it was a romance. If the girls best friend seemed perfect and was helping her get over a bad relationship. This is a fine dynamic. Imperfections should feel natural, not a checklist. Also they generally should be connected to a characters positive traits.

    Like in the above example. The girl is a strong friend because she doesn't have a lot of friends. So, by not having a lot of friends, she can dedicate more time to each of her friends. That connects the strength and weakness. Also, a further sub-plot being like the MC getting a boyfriend and her friend becoming depressed, causing drama between the three. Again, perfectly fine.

    That is a perfect example of holding off a characte bad side for plot point.

    So my question would be this. How important, and how much screen time is your character getting? If they are important and getting a lot. Why is this negative side of them not making an apperance?
     
  6. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,922
    Likes Received:
    5,458
    I feel as if there are two (possibly more) categories of flaws here. Or perhaps two (or more) functions for flaws.

    I'm also uncomfortable talking about "flaws" as if they're decorations, but that's a separate issue. I'm also also uncomfortable about the idea of a character being largely undeveloped until the THIRD book, when IMO every single book should be complete in itself, but that's another separate issue.

    There are the flaws or imperfections or quirks that make a character human and relatable. Pretty much every character needs to have them, and they need to have them right away.

    Then there are the flaws or imperfections that may have an impact on the plot. Superman's kryptonite thing comes to mind.

    Now, the same flaw can of course do both things.

    You seem to be talking about the second. I'm thinking of the first. But I'm still feeling unclear. I feel as if I'd need to see some of this character in action. I definitely think that if we can't see his personality until the third book, there's a huge problem.
     
  7. Middie
    Offline

    Middie Member

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2016
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    Arizona, USA
    Thanks for all the feedback, guys. I appreciate it!

    The main reason I'm concerned about waiting so long to show this more negative side of him is becuase he is a pretty major character in the series, as opposed to a side character. There are five main characters, and the books switch between different perspectives (third person, but always limited to one character's perspective at a time, and each book focuses on one or two of them specifically). There is one character who is pretty obviously the protagonist of the entire series (I'll call her MC1), and this other character (MC2) is pretty important because his appearance is sort of the spark that starts MC1 along the main plot of the series.

    The reason he's depicted as being pretty perfect in the first book is because the first book is largely from MC1's perspective, and she views him as annoyingly perfect. Then he's absent for a large portion of the second book, and the third book is largely from MC2's perspective (as well another main character who is with him at the time), which is where I had been planning on showing what's really going on with him.

    There are maybe a couple chapters in the first book that are from MC2's perspective, however, so I was wondering if maybe I should make this side of him a little more apparent during those chapters. My only concern with this would be that the first book is MC1's book, so I'm hesitant to have too much going on that she's unaware about. Although, because MC1 is the focus of the first book, perhaps I should be treating MC2 as more of a side character until later on, when he steps into the focus?
     
  8. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,922
    Likes Received:
    5,458
    Does this character have any personality? "Perfect" is pretty much personality-free. Are there elements of personality that perhaps you don't define as flaws, but still make him human?
     
  9. Middie
    Offline

    Middie Member

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2016
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    Arizona, USA
    The character still has a personality in the first book. The thing that really differentiates him from MC1 is that he's far more sensitive and emotional than her, and because of their difference in upbringing, he just can't wrap his head around the idea that someone could even want to do the things that he considers morally wrong. Because MC1 is pretty self-centered, which she does realize, she views MC2 as sort of a "perfect" character that won't be knocked down by anything, and could never do anything wrong. By interacting with him, she becomes more aware of her own shortcomings, but she basically views him as an ideal person because he doesn't let her see his internal struggles. So I guess I'm talking about "perfect" in more of a moral sense, rather than personality.
     
  10. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,085
    Likes Received:
    671
    I think you might be missing a few concepts.

    1. Rosy colored glasses. Which is an expression for when someone is so smitten by somthing they ignore its faults. The cool thing is the MC can think the guy is AMAZING and you can still reveal his bad side.

    Case in point, in one story, a girl was being abused in a relationship. In her POV, she loved him and blamed herself. That in no way stops you from thinking the guy was an asshole!

    So, book two doesn't concern me. You make a point of saying he doesn't show up. Fine. But you are saying he is in book 1 a LOT.

    2. Define a lot? I mean, think about this. If it really is a lot, the character trait that is his negative side should reveal itelf. Whether or not the MC notices. Because like I said. The best negative traits are connected to positive ones. it is the weakness to his strength. So, my question is this. What is the weakness to his strength? Does it really not make an apperance? Why not? It seems difficult to avoid such an important part of a character so long naturally.
     
  11. Middie
    Offline

    Middie Member

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2016
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    Arizona, USA
    That's a really good point. I could probably do a better job of getting some of his weaknesses across during the first book, even if the protagonist doesn't realize that they're weaknesses.

    As far as his presence in the first book, I guess a better way of putting it would be that he is an important character in the first book, but he's not the protagonist of it. I'm trying to think of a way to explain his role without rambling on about the entire plot of the series.

    In the first book, MC2 is basically being held against his will, and he's not really in a position where he can do much besides have conversations. He's pretty much stuck in a room on his own, but MC1 ends up meeting him by accident, and then finds a way to continue having conversations with him in secret. I'd estimate that he is physically present in maybe 20-25% of the book, during which he is always interacting with the protagonist, but his presence there and the friendship that he forms with the protagonist is a major plot point that affects the way MC1 interacts with any of the other characters, as well as the decisions that she makes throughout the story. He's not the protagonist of the first book, but he is a major character, and two of the chapters right now are set to be from his perspective.
     
  12. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,085
    Likes Received:
    671
    I think you may need to redefine terms. Important, main character, protagnosit. These are in some ways loose terms.

    Let me put it this way.

    It sounds like you are saying they have a supporting role in the plot. They are around a lot because they are connected to the MC. But overal that connection isn't very important.

    Let me give a decent example of the difference.

    In my own work. A girl named Annie helps another girl reach a new level of power! Which sounds super plot related. Except it isnt. That character could reach that new plot level in any number of different ways. Yes by picking Annie as the cataysis I do make her more important but from a structuring the plot dynamic, she isn't important. She is a supporting role.

    Another girl is named Victoria. Her involvement in the book is a LOT more needed. Character motivation, plot, how they reach the climax. ALL of this is connected to her. So, delete her, the story HAS to change. Delete Annie, and one plot point changes.

    Does that make sense?

    If the character has a minor role with little personal stakes and as such you don't dive into his prsonal demons? Sure. I accept that.
     
  13. Middie
    Offline

    Middie Member

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2016
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    Arizona, USA
    Yeah, that does make sense. I guess I was thinking of it from a perspective of the series as a whole, since he is pretty much the focus of the third book. But for the sake of just focusing on the first one, you're right in saying that he has more of a supporting role. His involvement in the story is the reason the protagonist of the series makes the decisions she does in the first book, because without him there, she would have continued life as normal and there really wouldn't be a story to tell. But ultimately, it's still the protagonist's decisions that drive the plot, because the other character doesn't really have a choice in the matter until book three rolls around. I really should focus on the individual books being complete stories on their own, rather than just the entire series chopped up into four pieces.

    Thanks for all the input -- I'm always open to constructive criticism, and it really does help!
     
  14. John Kirk
    Offline

    John Kirk New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2016
    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    8
    There's nothing that says that a character's strength can't also be his or her weakness. In fact, that is a central characteristic of the heroes of ancient Greek myth. In the Illiad, Achilles was considered to be the greatest of all the Greek heroes. He had a driving ambition for glory. It was what inspired him to train to be the greatest warrior of his day. But, his thirst for glory was also his downfall. His mother, a sea nymph, prophesied that Achilles had two choices: If he stayed at home and avoided war, he would live a long and enjoyable life, be prosperous, and have many adoring children. But, after he was dead he would be forgotten. Alternately, if Achilles joined the Trojan War, his name would be remembered for centuries for the glory of his his battles. But, his life would be short as the war would kill him. Achilles chose the short but glory-filled path to life.

    You could do the same thing with your character. You could, for example, describe him as exceedingly generous and, due to that, admired by your protagonist. But, that generosity could result in him giving away essentially everything and, ultimately, becoming a burden to his family as money slips through is fingers because he co-dependently satisfies every whim his friends demand of him. Or, he may simply have a driving need to be seen as generous. It may eventually be revealed that he is actually embezzling money to provide funds to feed an over-inflated ego.

    I do think that the character needs to be seen with both strengths and weaknesses. Otherwise, the character will be too flat. But, as GuardianWynn pointed out, that doesn't mean that your protagonist can't ignore his flaws and view the character as ideal.
     

Share This Page