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Character Flaws (Help Me Brainstorm)

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So, I'm working on a new book and realized that one of my characters is a bit too perfect. She needs a good flaw to work through over the course of the story, one that will be tested by my plot arc. But I'm a parent of a toddler and a bit sleep-deprived, so I need some help stretching my brain.

Some "flaws" that I am currently weary of seeing in girls in fantasy stories:
1) Being too strong/independent/sure they can do it all themselves
2) Being afraid to fall in love (most often because they will lose their independence)
3) Having a too-quick tongue that gets them in trouble

(All of the above deal with ways women have been oppressed/repressed over the years, so there's nothing wrong with them as themes. I'm just starting to feel like they are the only themes I see.)

Feel free to tell me some other flaws you are tired of seeing or give me some ideas for character flaws that sound like fun to you. Being silly is just fine. ::-)
#1 - August 30, 2015, 11:50 AM

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Hmm. Looking at your plot, is there anything in it that might suggest a way that your character will be tested (and therefore point to a flaw or weakness in her?)  I kind of feel like I need a little more info.

Perhaps give her a fear or phobia or two? Or a prejudice against something?
#2 - August 30, 2015, 12:09 PM
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Holly, I like to have my flaws tie in with the story. (Not sure I do that successfully, but still...)

Hmm, not sure if you want large or small flaws, but: stage fright, fear of failure, fear of success, lack of motivation, lack of empathy (in certain situations, so she's not overall unlikeable), being overly sentimental, fearing change, having difficulty with transitions, lack of courage, lack of punctuality, laziness, arrogance, hypochondria, having some phobia or disease. (And all apologies for listing those last couple as flaws, but I don't know where Holly's going with this, and I'm just trying to help brainstorm things that may be negatives for her character.)
#3 - August 30, 2015, 12:11 PM
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Resources available at this website may be of help. I believe Becca and Angela, the site operators, are both SCBWI members, too.

http://writershelpingwriters.net/thesaurus-collections/
#4 - August 30, 2015, 12:14 PM
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Being silly is fine? I'm in.

How about someone who is passive aggressive in little ways? She doesn't outwardly express discontent/anger, but she adds a little too much Equate to your coffee?

Or someone who says one thing then literally whispers to herself behind your back? Or makes one-word notes on pieces of paper about what she thinks of you? Or who takes secret pictures with her cell phone?

I just read GONE GIRL (I know, only three years late), and I loved how Amy as "Diary Amy" was hopeful, nice, happy to please but not be a doormat, very convincingly, then the Real Amy in another chapter was just the opposite, foul-mouthed, conniving, murderous.

How old is your MC?
#5 - August 30, 2015, 12:15 PM
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Maybe she swears like a sailor.  :sailor

Oh wait, that's my flaw.  :whistle
#6 - August 30, 2015, 12:23 PM
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Since I dealt with an office manager like this, how about someone who wrinkles her nose at your ideas, then runs down the hall and promotes them to the bosses as if they are her ideas with absolutely no acknowledgement of you (and it takes a while for you to catch on that the person is doing that). Wouldn't have to be a work situation, could be at school, club, etc.
#7 - August 30, 2015, 12:29 PM

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Being silly is just fine. ::-)

Could your character be silly/funny/witty, especially at inappropriate times? Making a joke during a serious situation can ease tension, but it could also make people annoyed or make the situation worse if the comment was inappropriate given the circumstances.

On the flip side, she could also be funny/witty/silly at appropriate times too? That way, her flaw would also be a strength, depending on when and how she used it.

Good luck! Hope you get some sleep soon!
#8 - August 30, 2015, 12:40 PM
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She could have a physical weakness like less than stellar eyesight, or a deaf ear, or clumsiness that shows up at inconvenient times. A physical weakness could mold her emotional responses to certain situations and affect the plot.
#9 - August 30, 2015, 01:41 PM

can you tell us what it is she must overcome in her story arc? That would make it much easier to brainstorm the 'perfect' flaw to trip her up….

Oh, and it would be helpful to know if it is first person -- the flaws someone perceives in themselves (or fails to perceive) are different than those others see in them.

Also, what is the level of darkness in the book? For instance, fighting an addiction or mental illness is excellent, but will only fit with dark themes.

;) eab
#10 - August 30, 2015, 03:02 PM
« Last Edit: August 30, 2015, 03:12 PM by Auntybooks »

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Your character could get really really tired but refuse to lie down. She could rub food in her hair. She could suddenly develop an inexplicable fear of the bath even though she liked the bath yesterday. She could refuse to wear any shoes except bright blue rubber rain boots no matter what the weather. She could demand to hold two people's hands and then, when the people are not paying attention, pick up her feet and try to make them carry her along. She could grab any cup she finds and turn it upside down to watch the contents pour out. She could scream in restaurants. She could hide goldfish crackers between the couch cushions and then, when a visitor is sitting on the couch, she could casually reach between the visitor's legs to retrieve the crackers and eat them. She could build towers of blocks in the refrigerator. She could develop an obsession with taking objects out of the trash. She could bite occasionally. She could get even more tired but still refuse to lie down. She could wander around naked and shivering, and then when anyone even suggested putting on clothes, she could scream and laugh and run away. She could cling to people's knees so they can't move when they're trying to fix dinner. She could throw books. She could chew on electrical cords. She could dump out the entire contents of the salt shaker when nobody is looking. She could finally, finally, finally fall asleep and then wake up impossibly soon afterward and start again.

Hmmm, is it possible my brainstorming abilities are a little off because I'm busy parenting a toddler too? Nah. These flaws would make sense in a teen character. Right? Right?
#11 - August 30, 2015, 03:34 PM
« Last Edit: August 30, 2015, 03:45 PM by Melissa K »
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Clumsy works for me. Or too imaginative and curious, too romantic, or gullible. Or she tries to help people all the time, but she's not too smart about it. Or she wants to be famous too much.

You could give her a contradiction. Maybe she's way feminine, but she adores professional wrestling--something like that. Maybe she wants to BE a professional wrestler.

I had a friend in school who was brilliant and gorgeous and really studious. Everyone was always telling her she could be whatever she wanted to be. So what did she end up doing? She joined the police force. That kind of thing.

Maybe she collects fossils or loves tap dancing. Maybe she goes to ET conventions. Maybe she suspects various acquaintances of being ETs. (O.K. I'm getting a little wild with that last one.)
#12 - August 30, 2015, 03:42 PM
« Last Edit: August 30, 2015, 03:49 PM by Betsy »
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Melissa K-- :dr
#13 - August 30, 2015, 04:20 PM
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These flaws would make sense in a teen character. Right? Right?

OMG I think it would be brilliant!!  :dr
#14 - August 30, 2015, 06:19 PM
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What's your character's greatest strength? It seems natural for her weakness to be the flipside of her strength.
#15 - August 31, 2015, 09:33 AM
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Holly, we often like to think of the seven deadly sins when looking for character flaws but sometimes taking a look at the seven virtues to the extreme, you can be very surprised by what you find.

I think of Javert in Les Miserables. He is the epitome of the LAW. Justice is everything for him. But he takes it so far, that he cannot really reconcile the notion of mercy. When he himself is shown mercy, he commits suicide.

Good luck plotting and planning your story.
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#16 - August 31, 2015, 11:16 AM
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Melissa K, you made me laugh. That's so much like my life right now, too. :)

I was purposefully vague on the plot for the story because I was hoping the thread might be useful for more people than just me. But for the purposes of MY story, I'm telling the story in two viewpoints about a boy and a girl who have teamed up to find a treasure that they think will be the answer to both of their problems. The boy (a prince) wants to get out of marrying the princess his father has engaged him to and all the dangerous political ties that would come with allying his kingdom with hers. His "flaw" is that underneath it all, he wants to be loved so badly that he's not fully honest with about who he is and what he wants. The girl wants the treasure because it will repair her family's fortune, and hopefully erase the damage her father did to her family's name. Her flaw is...

What's your character's greatest strength? It seems natural for her weakness to be the flipside of her strength.

This is excellent. I don't think I know what her greatest strength is, either. Gumption was what I'd been thinking--she'll try some pretty crazy things to get what she wants. She's also very protective of the people she's taken under her wing. She might be so goal focused that she's blind to the more subtle things that other people desire. But that's not making for a very compelling beginning yet. ::-)

V, the virtues might just be where I need to look. Thank you! She's the passionate sort, and I think overdoing on a good thing is more in keeping with who she is than being hung up on a "bad" thing.
#17 - August 31, 2015, 11:28 AM

Oh-- I guess substance addiction won't work, then. :)

I think you have already built weakness into her, and your characters weaknesses play off of one another. Like this:

They each have two, really. He desperately wants love b/c he has not been loved; he is afraid of what he will have to do to rule the kingdom.

*She* is fearless in her pursuit of money  b/c she has not had money, and loves it to the exclusion of loving new people.

To confront these weaknesses, he has to give up what he wants (the girl) and face the dangers that come with being king.

She has to give up riches (the boy) b/c she loves him more than she loves money.

And then, the twist: b/c they have grown (he has learned courage, she has learned fear) and make the sacrifices that must be made, they end up with one another.

Maybe.

:) eab

#18 - August 31, 2015, 11:40 AM

You are brilliant, eab. Brilliant, I tell you. I had a feeling the answer was in front of me all along. You even hit on the reversal I wanted to pull in the plot, but couldn't figure out how to make it logical. I think I've gotten a sudden picture of how this will actually work. Hooray! Now to get some more sleep so I can put it into words in the book. ::-)
#19 - August 31, 2015, 11:43 AM

Technically, it is your subconscious that is brilliant. It had already planted all of this in the book--you were just to involved in the details of the story to see what was going on. That happens to me all of the time!

But I am happy to take the credit…. hehe

:) eab
#20 - August 31, 2015, 11:53 AM

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I love what eab said. Adding to that, it seems that not only money, but pride in her family's name and public perception, would be her weakness. That it's what her family looks like on the outside (to their public) that is more important than the good/bad deeds they actually did. Just an example: So dad might have been king, but perhaps he was a cruel leader. Maybe her mother was kind, but she saw it as weakness - and maybe she even blames her mother's weakness for losing the family's place in society. If the boy is kind instead of ruthless, she would not value him until she learned to value her mother's kindness over her father's quest for power and riches.

Just throwing this out there in addition to all the great stuff you already have here!

#21 - August 31, 2015, 12:12 PM
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Her family could be an absolute blind spot for her. My family - right or wrong. Whatever it takes to rehabilitate the family name. This could lead her down a rabbit hole or two.
#22 - August 31, 2015, 12:17 PM

You guys are so awesome. I was so desperately stuck, and now I have some fun ideas for how to fix this problem (and highlight what I already had in place).

:thankyou
#23 - August 31, 2015, 08:50 PM

And we all now have some interesting ideas to use for our next story! ;)
#24 - August 31, 2015, 11:22 PM
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And we all now have some interesting ideas to use for our next story! ;)

That was my hope. :)
#25 - September 01, 2015, 10:27 AM

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