Sunday, April 4, 2010

Nicely Flawed Characters

The word count for the day so far is only a thousand, but I'm going to keep going once I'm done with this post. I have to say, I'm getting more excited about this latest project with every chapter I write.
One comment asked me to say something about character flaws, a topic near and dear to my heart since it's something I've struggled with over the three books I've finished. On one hand, if you make a character with too many flaws or flaws that are too major, they make weak and poor heroes. If you don't give them enough flaws or no flaws at all, the reader can't relate to them. My favorite characters tend to start with more flaws and overcome some of them through the course of the story. Character growth is always better than a character that starts great and stays great. At the same time, great characters can start great, have a major fall, and slowly redeem themselves.
Secondary characters are a different story altogether. You can get away with a lot more flaws in really interesting combinations. In the book I'm writing right now, one of my secondary characters makes no apology for any of his flaws and ends up being one of the most endearing characters in the story. He has problems and he doesn't care. He just wouldn't make a good hero.
Please feel free to add anything you'd like to what I've written, and feel free to disagree. A number of very talented authors just began following, and the rest of you are great readers, so I know there's a lot I can learn from all of you!

A note on my new author photo. This photo was taken by Erin Summerill, a very talented author and photographer who can work miracles with her camera. If you're in the Utah Valley area and you want some fabulous pictures taken, you really can't do better. You can contact her at


  1. The picture really does look great! =)

    One thing I like about your characters is I can relate to them. I think you do a good job at finding the balance you were talking about, though there definitely has been improvement.

    I prefer characters who don't have crazy obvious tragic flaws, because most well-adjusted people don't have blatantly obvious flaws... else they would fix them. So while flaws are important, if they're too obvious then it gives away the book - what the characters will overcome and where the story will lead.

  2. Conversely, I also enjoy sparks of virtue in villains, a kind of inverse character flaw. Say you are confident in your judgement of one person's character because he's been built up so effectively with misdeeds and mal-intent; but then he does something right with no ulterior motive (perhaps) and you wonder "maybe he's going to be a good guy" but it turns out to be a mere flaw in his overall evil nature that tempts him to do some good in a given situation. Consequently, he remains the villain but it makes the reader uncomfortable, which I like...sometimes.

  3. I agree with Rich's statement about seeing villains have sparks of virtue. It makes the readers/viewers wonder if something might "hit" them eventually to turn them good. However, sometimes it is really cheesy (or comical) when a villain decides to become a hero, or just good, after being evil for so long. But, sometimes I like to see that even if someone is evil for such a long time, that it isn't too late for them to change, and become a better person. That's always a good morale to send home with the kids!