Yes, This Will Be On the Test

Writing, Reading, Laughing

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Character Flaws

I’m going to be awful this week. You may have to avert your eyes. I’m delving into the realm of character flaws. Those juicy blights on a character’s personality, if not soul, that may either attract (bad boy) or repel (too good to be true) us as readers.

Hmm? Where do we go to dig the treasures of character flaws? First, if we are brave, we pull them from our own shortcomings. Second, we shamelessly steal negative traits from people in our lives.

Come with me, if you dare, down a list of flaws. (If you think you see yourself in this list you are hallucinating.)

Lack of tolerance for stupid people
Insecure to the point of annoying
I’m so much better than you-osity (I love a good –osity)
Selfish (Not to be confused with shellfish)
I don’t listen when you speak to me-ers
My life/loves/job/problems are so much more important than yours-ers

Enough about me…

What characters flaws drive you loopy, but are a blast to write?


  1. That's a great list. I love writing narrow-minded peeps. It's not like me at all and it's so much fun to play up that flaw.

  2. Oops. That would be me with the lack of tolerance for stupid people... closely linked to my impatience :)

    For fiction I like characters that are reckless, they get into good scrapes when they go where angels fear to tread!

  3. Pk - Totally agree with the fun-factor in messing with flaws.

    G.F. - Love the reckless flaw and I'm always up for a good scrape.

  4. LOL You crack me up! Love the list. Thought it said Lisa for a sec - but it was Liars. :P He he he

  5. Hmmmm, I recognize people I know with every one on that list (not me, of course. No never) For me, it was fun to stretch and write a bad boy. Bad language, shellfish (ha), the works.

  6. That is so funny! I see my characters for sure. And characters NEVER mirror us.

  7. A good flaw would be failing to see you have a flaw??! One could just base characters on oneself then they would have no flaws... Oh yeh, wait, then they'd be totally boring...

  8. Flaws... The hard part is drawing that fine line between flawed and too flawed. I've had some editors reject manuscripts because of that very reason. I don't get it.

  9. Lisa - Scared ya!

    Julie - You did one heck of a job writing a bad boy! Fess up, you have a secret flame in the past who wore leather and rode a motorcycle.

    Bekah - You are so right. No one EVER writes themselves in a story.

    Pat - Love your take on flaw blindness.

    Laurie - Huh? What is this secret flaw spectrum of which you speak?

  10. I love flawed characters. Just not overly flawed. This is a great list. It's got me thinking. ;)

    (ps if you want the 'first page' tables, I need your email address)

  11. My characters tend to be bad at picking good friends. They also tend to have quick tempers, which leads to "scrapes" (love that word!) which leads to regret.

    I, however, am good at picking friends. The quick temper? Well . . . ahem, we all have to exorcise a few demons on the page, don't we?

  12. LOVE this list!
    I'm now working with a lazy character, and I'm having fun! :D

  13. Stina - I will email you immediately. I agree - too flawed makes me lose patience and keep saying, "really?"

    Michelle - I used to have a quick temper. Don't have the energy for it anymore, but it did allow me to store up some good fights to pull from later. Down with demons (Just finished CITY OF FALLEN ANGELS).

    Monica - Lazy can be so irritating. It sounds like a blast to play with that.

  14. I'm definitely a know-it-all sometimes. :) But then sometimes I do know it all!

    There's a liar in my latest short story. Shameless.

  15. I just popped over from Stina's blog.

    Great question! I've written a few characters that have what I'd called judemental inferiority--that is, they sit on the sidelines feeling they will never fit in, while having a snarky running commentary inside about the supposed excluders. Getting the character to realize "who is really rejecting whom here?" is a fun transformation to work out.

    I'm also a fan of people-pleasing liars--they have a new story for every audience. Quite the tense juggling act!

  16. Welcome, Laurel. Thanks for the pop over. Love the conflict between interior dialogue and exterior action. GOOD ONE!

    Lee - Isn't lying considered an art form yet?

  17. love your list!
    What drives me loopy is insecurity to the point of clinginess, not keeping promisses-ness and the kindergarten syndrome ('I want everyone to like me').

    But I like reading and writing characters' flaws - not only the flaws make them real (or believeable) and relateable, but also more interesting. Long live flaws!

  18. Kate - Long live flaws would make a great button! Totally agree with the cling-ons. You want to smack them both literally and literarily. Thanks for stopping by.

  19. A great list to keep in mind. I found you through a link on Stina Lindenblatt's blog and have linked to your comment about characters since I'm doing a post about characterization.

  20. Thanks for a great list. I think developing unique personalities who seem genuine is the hardest part about writing.


  21. I love being linked, thanks, cleemmckenzie.

    Agree, agree, Joyce.