The Ericksons

Give Your Character a Flaw or Two


Give your character a flaw or two

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ways to increase your creativity. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Facing Cancer with Grace, where I will share posts that focus on caregiving. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is G is for, Give Your Character a Flaw or Two.

One of the things that can sink an otherwise good story is a perfect character. It’s just not realistic. Even a hero needs a flaw or two. How deeply your character is flawed will depend on their role in the story.

Are they the hero?

Just because they are the star of the story doesn’t mean they get a pass on revealing the wounds in their soul. In fact, it’s more important than ever that we learn they’re just like us—human (even if they are an android or an elf). We need to be able to relate to the hero of the story, and nothing is easier to relate to than a flaw. Maybe your hero is insecure because he didn’t make the cut on the team, or she grew up an orphan, wondering if she could ever trust someone to take care of her. Your character might have an anger issue. Maybe she’s a thief trying to reform. He could have lost his memory in an accident, or maybe the use of his legs. You name it. No matter what the flaw is, your character will have to overcome it in order to achieve his or her goal in the story.

Are they the villain?

Just because they are the baddie doesn’t mean they don’t have a soul. Giving your reader a reason to like the villain keeps the bad guy from coming off as a comic strip character with no depth. Anytime you can cause your reader to have conflicted feelings, it’s a good thing. For a villain, having a soul is sort of like a flaw. It can interfere with them achieving their goals. Give him or her a soft spot for puppies, children, or old ladies. Maybe they are driven by their own wounds. Your villain has to be a complex as the hero—maybe even more.

Give your character a flaw

Are they a supporting character?

Supporting characters aren’t just window dressing. If they don’t add something to the story, they don’t belong there at all. If they do belong there, make them shine in their own way. With supporting characters, you don’t need to go into some hardcore backstory. Instead, consider what makes this character important to the plot and let us know what they do. These guys also need something to make them distinctive. Otherwise, they can end up blending in, forgotten. You could give him an accent, but use caution so it isn’t a distraction. Maybe she has an original hairstyle or carries a dog in her purse. Is there an article of clothing that identifies them. In one of my stories, I had a character always wear a something with a Green Bay Packers logo on it.

 A flaw is the essence of your character

The great thing about playing around with character flaws it that you can really make your story come alive. You can use these flaws to change motivations, turning the plot in unexpected ways.
I’ve also found that by thinking about character flaws, and conversely, the human qualities and motivations of villains, I begin to see people in real life as more complex. It helps me to see that no one is perfect, or completely heartless. Spend some time thinking about your characters as real people and consider ways to make them more well rounded.

While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage your creativity.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

My Family
The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

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8 comments on “Give Your Character a Flaw or Two

Great ideas, Heather. I appreciate the connections you make between characters in books and real life people because you are absolutely right. A perfect book character is tedious and unrealistic. Which begs the question for me – So why am I constantly seeking perfection and believing that being perfect will make me more lovable? Definitely food for a weekend of thought.
Have a great day off tomorrow, Heather. I’m looking forward to reading you again on Monday.

I like flawed characters. They’re more relatable. Even superheroes can be damaged–and the best usually are. On the other hand, that only applies to humans. I’ve never seen a flawed dog.

Hi Karen, I’ve often heard that when someone makes a mistake or is somehow publicly embarrassed, they are actually considered more likable. That always makes me feel better if I mess up when doing public speaking. Have a wonderful weekend, Karen!

Hi Jacqui, I think you’re right about no flawed dogs. I just returned from the humane society and saw some incredible dogs. Then, I brought home gerbils 🙂

Flaws are hard to write, though. What’s too much of a flaw? We always want our creations to be perfect.

I love when you read a book series and the secondary characters gradually develop all their little flaws and quirks – it makes me look forward to each new book to get to know them all a little better.

Leanne | http://www.crestingthehill.com.au
H for Hang on to your Dreams

Hi Liz, They are hard! I’m reading a book right now that has me completely in its grip because of the way the writer portrays her characters. They are so real! I was reading the Author’s Wikipedia page and it said she is known for writing flawed, yet likable characters. It makes sense. How to do that well is something that can be tricky.

Hi Leanne, Sometimes a secondary character completely steals the show. I love when that happens. If I were an actor, that’s what I would want to play-a show-stealing secondary character. Fonzi on Happy Days was supposed to only be on a couple of episodes, but everyone loved him so they made him a major part of the show.

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