In a previous blog post on how to create interesting characters, I emphasized how important is to give your characters not just strengths, but also weaknesses. Perfect characters are boring!
But you shouldn’t give your characters just any flaws. The flaws your characters have need to be a good fit for the character. For example, having a character who’s reliable, hardworking, and organized, and then giving them the flaw of always being ten minutes late… no, that doesn’t work.
To explain, let me talk a bit about my previous day job. I used to be a psychologist, and I still draw on that background for my writing and editing. After all, creating characters has a lot in common with being a psychologist.
An excercise that helps with creating characters
One of the exercises I always gave my patients as a homework was to make a list of their strengths and their weaknesses and then have their friends, partners, family members, and colleagues write down a list of what they think the patient’s strengths and weaknesses are. I always had them ask several people, since we all have different roles in our families, jobs, and circles of friends, so our colleagues might see a different side of us than our family, etc.
Why don’t you try it? Go ahead and make your own list of strengths and weaknesses.
After I rearranged them a bit, the patients’ lists might look like this:
|Reliable||Can’t say no|
|Organized||Not spontaneous enough|
I’m sure you noticed and already suspected it would be like this. It’s not a coincidence which flaw appears on which list. There’s always a connection between a person’s strengths and their flaws. They are, basically, two ends of a continuum or two sides of the same coin, and you can’t have one side without the other.
Sometimes, in group sessions, my patients even had heated discussions when one patient wanted to write down a trait in the “flaw” column, while another patient thought it was clearly a strength. Well, depending on the situation, most traits can be either a strength or a flaw.
So, when you create your characters, make sure not to assign them random flaws. A character’s flaws should be their strengths taken to an extreme.
I hope you find this advice helpful. If you have any questions about character creation, please leave a comment.