When you’re writing a short story or novel, you want your characters to be realistic and believable. After all, nobody’s perfect — not even your protagonist! While there are many ways to write authentic characters, one of the best ways might seem counterintuitive: Give your characters flaws. These very human imperfections will help make your characters more relatable and can be the catalyst for story arcs they learn from (or don’t). Here are 5 ways to write flaws that will make your character three-dimensional without making them unlikeable.
How To Write Character Flaws — With Examples!
Give each character different flaws. No two people are exactly alike, and no two fictional characters should be either! In developing your characters’ personalities, be sure to give each of them different flaws. Beyond helping to distinguish your characters from one another, this will complicate — or strengthen — their relationship dynamics.
Example: Noelle is chronically tardy, and her friend Jared is inflexible. If Noelle is late for rigid plans that Jared has made, arguments will ensue. However, each of them working to better their flaws will not only help them grow as individuals, but strengthen their friendship.
Tie the flaw to your character’s backstory. Embedding the imperfection into your character’s backstory will define why it occurs. If readers understand why your character is flawed, they’ll be more likely to root for that character to grow!
Example: Sable has trouble opening up and trusting others, which can frustrate friends and romantic partners. However, it’s later revealed that Sable was abandoned as a child by his mother.
Temper a character’s flaws with positive traits. If you want a character to be sympathetic, make sure there’s more to their personality — and their actions — than just their flaws. Think about how the individual traits you assign to a character can all work together to create a three-dimensional personality and arc.
Example: The grouchy old man sits on his porch and yells at the neighborhood kids. However, he’s spotted setting out food in his yard for the homeless cats in the neighborhood.