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How to Write a Character Flaw

hi guys it's Ellen Rock freelance editor

this is the third video in my series on

protagonists we've talked about how to

create a goal driven character as well

as how to make sure your character is

driving the plot today I'm going to talk

about how to write a character that's

flawed and how to make sure that that

flaw works well with your story there

are two different problems you can have

with your flaw the flaw could be absent

or the flaw could just not be working

very well with your story assuming that

you have purposefully it omitted a flaw

it's most common that you're overly

identifying the character as a good guy

or a nice person and you have difficulty

giving the character negative traits you

also might be identifying that character

as a hero and you want that character to

just seem really strong and really

capable and a really great person and

adding flaws feels like you're weakening

the character so you really don't have

to be afraid of that because readers

actually find flaws to be more endearing

and it makes your character more

likeable and more relatable so if you

omit adapt law because you're afraid it

might make your character not likable or

it might make your character less of a

hero don't worry about it the best

heroes have flows the best characters

have flaws it's nothing to worry about

if you're concerned that it might make

your protagonist not seem like as good

of a person or as heroic now most

writers do understand the concept of a

flaw at least they understand that the

flaw is something that exists and

something that should be present in

their character unfortunately a lot of

people don't understand the difference

between a flaw and sort of a quirk or a

personality trait this can make a huge

difference in your novel because of what

your character really has is a slightly

negative personality trait that's not

going to serve the function that the

flaw serves in the book and the flaw is

actually a really important part of the

characterization as well as the plot

itself so the main difference between

the character flaw and a character trait

or a quirk is that the character flaw

will have a stronger connection to the

problems that the care

Durr is facing so the flow will cause

actual trouble in the life of the

character whereas a quirk might be like

clumsiness or overspending or something

like that it might not really contribute

significantly to the plot it may be

relevant occasionally but it's not it's

not a deeper emotional challenge that

the character is having to cope with the

character flaw will actually interfere

with the characters ability to move

forward in a helpful and productive way

and this is because the flaw is

connected to backstory and connected to

a false belief that the character has I

talked about this in a blog post and

I'll put a link to that in the

description if you want to read a little

bit more in depth about this issue

because it's a little complicated but

essentially the character has a relevant

a key moment of backstory and that

moment of backstory has led the

character to a belief so perhaps the

character grew up very poor and that led

to the belief for that character that

the only way to be happy is to have

money so the characters flaw then will

be connected to that belief and connect

it to that backstory so the character

may have a flaw of being overly stingy

or prioritizing money over family and

over the course of the novel that will

interfere with the characters ability to

be happy or to achieve their goal or

their or satisfy their motivation the

character in the beginning won't see

that this is a flaw or they may see that

as a flaw but believe that they don't

have any other option but eventually the

character will come to the conclusion

that they need to change and that they

have this false belief and that this

element of themselves of how they

conceptualize things or how they react

to things is a flaw so essentially if

you're trying to determine whether or

not your character has a true flaw or

just a personality quirk you need to

focus on how it's impacting the novel

and whether or not it really affects how

that character reacts and moves forward

because the flaw should be getting the

character into trouble it's the flaws

connection to back story until false

belief that leads the reader to be able

to identify with the character and

empathize with the character even if the

flaw is very severe or very negative a

lot of the time I get asked by people

how do you write a character who has a

very negative trader a very unlikable

trader does a very negative or unlikable

thing and make readers still care about

that character and the best way to do it

is to connect it to backstory and

connect it to a false belief so then the

reader can look at this character who

does a horrible thing and identify with

why they've done it it doesn't mean they

would react that way themselves it

doesn't mean they would agree with it

but they can identify for this person

they can connect those dots to see how

this person arrived in this situation so

if you follow this you can actually get

pretty unlikable flaws without losing

the readers empathy towards the

character for instance you could have a

man who drives drunk and accidentally

kills a child which would be a very very

unlikable flaw driving drunk getting

drunk it's very unlikable but if you

connect this character's alcoholism to

the past into a false belief you can

better give the sense that this this guy

might have turned out different had this

not happened or this guy might have been

a different person in a different

situation when I've had this flaw and

the reader can really connect and say

okay I understand why the person the

character reacted this way if you don't

give your character flaw the main effect

that it will have on your novel is that

the character won't have room for growth

because without a flaw any way that you

try to create a character arc or you try

to create some kind of lesson or morale

or growth at the end of the story it's

going to feel forced because what makes

the what makes the character arc field

natural is when it's connected to

something in the past if you don't

connect it to anything and then try to

create some sort of lesson it is it

often feels sort of artificial or sort

of tacked on and I see a lot of the time

around the climax of the novel

that I get the sense that the writer

sort of tacking on the character that

they sort of try to insert this lesson

at the last minute but the pieces

weren't put into place throughout the

story and the way that you put that into

place is that you make sure that it

becomes clear preferably within the

first 1 2 3 scenes what what the

character flaw is possibly you would

reveal where it came from but depending

on the book you may not reveal the

backstory until later on but the reader

should have a sense of why the character

has this flaw and then get a sense of

how its manifesting in their life and

that's what you really want to

demonstrate early on in the novel within

the first few scenes is how this flaw

impacting their decision impacting how

they're moving forward affecting their

life in a negative way and it may not be

a tremendously prominent element of the

novel depending on the genre that you're

writing it may be fairly subtle but so

long as those pieces are in there even

if they're only just barely in there

when you get to the climax it won't have

that tacked on or that artificial feel

like you pulled out the character arc

just out of nowhere just to create a

character arc because you felt like you

had to or because you read that books

are supposed to have character arcs so

you found a way to sort of stick one in

if you don't establish it early on you

may as well not try to create a

character arc in the end because it just

won't feel authentic and it can actually

be worse than no character arc at all if

you realize that you don't have a flaw

for your protagonist the best way that

you can add one is sort of think about

the theme or the idea that in either

inspired you to create the book or one

that you feel suits the plot and in

suits your overall goal or the vision

that you have for the novel if you have

a hard time finding any logical place

for that flaw to come from dig into the

goal the motivation the backstory how do

these things all connect together and if

you can create

that clear line of logic between all of

those factors that's when you're going

to create a very complicated but very

clear and well drawn character so I hope

this video helped you to understand the

character flaw and how it will work

within your novel tomorrow I'm going to

be going over how to create realistic

characters in the last video in my

protagonist series