1. McDonaldsMaster

    McDonaldsMaster New Member

    Sep 19, 2012
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    Good Character Flaw = Trait to Conflict their Goals?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by McDonaldsMaster, Sep 25, 2012.

    Hi! I think I am a newbie(not just on the forums, but to the wonderful world of writing),
    everyone here seems to know a lot of things, etc!

    Earlier someone told me
    " Really, any trait can be applied as a character flaw if it impedes relationships and growth. " - Wolfwig

    So here, have I got it right?

    If someones trait is, "Can't sit still for more than a few seconds and can't concentrate well.",
    Then have their goal be, them wanting to be a surgeon? Is this too extreme? Trying too hard?

    Two ways to make a story:
    1) Find out the Goal of the story, then give the character a trait to make the goal more difficult?
    2) Find a character flaw, then give them a Goal that would conflict with their character flaw?

    This is my guess and I would like to know what everyone else thinks! Or if there are other cool tips.

    Thanks everyone!
  2. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
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    Massachusetts, USA
    Don't get tunnel vision focusing on flaws. Character dimension comes from all manner of unique characteristics, not merely flaws. Intense curiosity is hardly a flaw, even if it gets your character in trouble from time to time. A character's zest for life and sense of humor can set her apart, and again, this is no flaw, even if it pisses someone else off enough to make him a threat.

    The obsession with flaws is a reflection of twentieth century philosophy. It is also reflected in the modern concept of tragedy, which is that tragedy arises from our flaws. In contrast, tragedy in Shakespeare's time was centered around unfortunate timing, and classic Greek tragedy was born in trying to deny one's fate.

    Look at the whole person, not just flaws, not even just a collection of traits.
  3. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

    Mar 9, 2010
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    I'm getting a sort of mechanical, "game balance" feel about your dicussion of flaws. But you're not creating a game here, you're creating a person. In your example, you're thinking of choosing a core aspect of this person - becoming a surgeon, their primary professional and also probably personal goal for their entire adult life - purely because it happens to interact in a certain way with a flaw.

    If someone asked you, "Why does this character want to be a surgeon?" the answer should not be, "Because I wanted his Restlessness Flaw to be meaningful." It should be an answer something like:

    "Because his father is a doctor and his grandfather was a doctor and his uncle is a doctor--that's what his family does. He never questioned it; he knew that he was supposed to be a doctor."

    "He grew up poor but smart--really smart. He craves respect and respectability, he wants to be somebody important. His academic skills were more in science than liberal arts, and a series of role models guided him toward biology, and then medicine."

    ...or something like that. It could even be, "I dunno; I see him as a doctor. I'll figure out why later." But I think that it should _not_ be for mechanical, flaws-versus-advantages reasons.
  4. DefinitelyMaybe

    DefinitelyMaybe Contributor Contributor

    Aug 31, 2012
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    Leicester, UK
    This is what I've been thinking when I've read advice on writing short stories. There seems to be too much concentration on a formula for writing, without mentioning exceptions. There must be a main character who has flaws, there must be an antagonist, there must be this there must be that. Certainly when I read short fiction, I don't feel that every story needs to fit these parameters, that there's scope for different types of stories. That there are different ways of creating and maintaining interest. With it being possible for an antagonist to be non-human, e.g. machine/environment/etc., that allows quite a bit flexibility, but is an antagonist not an antagonist? As you point out, "flawed" is a perhaps bit too restrictive term, and there are other ways of creating interest in a character, such as intense curiosity. Does it have to be sufficient to get the MC into trouble, and therefore be a flaw?
  5. struggler

    struggler Member

    Dec 12, 2009
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    In the movie Jaws, the main character has a fear of water, yet to kill the shark that's been terrorizing his town he has to sail out and eventually overcome his fear to fight the shark in water to overcome his adversity. Just something I remember reading in 'Screenplay writing for dummies'.

    As for your can't 'sit still but wants to be a surgeon idea', yeah you're on the right track but that is pretty extreme and not likely to work out. Maybe something like in the tv series LOST where a main character is a surgeon but has lots of troubles living up to expectations he thinks his father has of him (who is also a renown surgeon).

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