Perfect or imperfect characters?

Character Flaws: Perfect or imperfect characters? by CK Van Dam

Author confession: I struggle with character flaws. More specifically, my characters’ flaws. 

My editor tells me to add more obstacles for my characters to overcome. Sometimes that means writing characters who have flaws. Perfect is boring.

Personally, I hate reading books or watching movies where the characters consistently make bad choices. But I realize it’s the flaws that make characters interesting. Audiences want characters who are flawed. Whether it’s cheating on a math test or murder, it’s these plot twists that make a story enjoyable.

Character flaws also are part of an engaging arc. Sometimes they’re deeply rooted in childhood trauma, creating the character’s backstory. Flaws allow protagonists and antagonists to grow, change and solve their problems. And those character arcs are what keep audiences turning pages or tuning in.

Character flaws come in a variety of flavors. There are minor shortcomings like being forgetful or egotistical. These are not serious flaws, but they do provide opportunities for characters to “be better.”

Major flaws, such as arrogance or selfishness, make it harder for audiences to like the character, but they might still be able to relate to those flaws. And if the character can overcome these flaws, the outcome is even more satisfying.

Then there are fatal flaws. A tendency to violence, addiction, or vengeance makes characters harder to like – and more challenging to change for the better. But who hasn’t rooted for the “big bad” character who redeems themself? The character transformation is the payoff.

I’ll continue to struggle with flaws: mine and those of my characters.