AAAAND IT’S InstaWrimo time again! Fasten your seatbelts and hold your seahorses, because this is going to be fast, short and sweet.
We’re talking about character flaws today. You know, those pesky little things we all have, but most of us would like to think we don’t. Not really.
Here’s a fact about storytelling that even the great production studios seem to forget every so often: Every good story rests on a good character. Yes, I know there are experts out there who teaches plot above everything else, but they are wrong. There. I said it. I don’t cae who they are or what prize they’ve won. If they try to push plot over character they are full of shit. And here’s why.
People relate to people. We even relate to people-ish beings. Give us a dog, a lion, a snowman, or even a robot, and we’ll relate to them. If they are well written. Which, in this case, means they have to be human-like. Which, in turn, means they have to be flawed. And their flaws should, ideally, be the exact opposite of their strength.
Jill Chamberlain, the genius behind the Nutshell Technique
(see links below) talks about character flaw.
What we often see happen, though, is writers self-inserting. In case you don’t know, it means that they keep writing characters that are, essentially carbon copies of themselves. And most people, and yes writers are people too, don’t really like to admit that they are flawed.
But why, you may ask, would we like bad people? Simply, because most of us feel pretty dang miserable deep down. We fail and we get shot wrong and we make decisions that, in hindsight, didn’t do us any favours.
We live in messy homes with messy kids and messy partners. We have messy friend and family relations, and we secretly suspect that, unlike us, everybody else have worked their shit out. And that’s why we can watch a despicable character like Jack Nicholson’s author in As Good As It Gets and truly root for him in the end.
Another example is Tony Soprano. A killer who is tormented by the horrible things he’s done. And Dexter, and other killer who “only” kills bad people. Then we have Jack Sparrow, selfish git who can’t help himself, when push comes to shove he has to step up and be a hero.
In children’s fiction we have Edmund, the annoying brother in the Narnia books, who sells out his family for some sweets. And Peter Pan who is a topical kid and puts the Lost Boys in danger time and time again. Notice a pattern here? Yeah, these are all male characters.
Female characters rarely get to be flawed, like really flawed, unless they are the villain or antagonist. Female heroes very often get pushed into the squeaky clean and flawless corner, and we end up not really caring for them. I’m not saying there are no good examples of wonderfully flawed female MCs. Not exactly. But when I tried to think of good examples of flawed heroes, the list of male examples grew very long. As for female ones… Immana have to get back to you on that one.
Case in point, we end up with a whole lot of squeaky clean, flawless people living in squeaky clean, flawless homes. And then stupid, heartless people treat the flawless hero horribly until, somehow, they come out on top and succeeds in whatever mission they had.
But guess what? We don’t care! Give us a messy character in a messy life and show us how they struggle to rise up to whatever challenge life has thrown at them, and we’ll love them. Make them thieves, alcoholics, junkies, bad parents, cheating partners, unreliable friends, unruly kids or whatever you can think of and chances are we’ll love ’em.
Edda is one of the main characters in the Ulfrheim series, and she’s
wonderfully flawed. Her biggest flaw, I think, is her stubbornness.
With this in mind, it may not be much of a surprise to you that I’m making sure that my female MCs in the Ulfrheim series are deeply flawed.
Edda and Angel are both strong characters in their different ways, but they are also frustratingly annoying in some respects. In Edda’s case, her biggest flaw is her stubbornness. But when you start to delve into her character, you’ll begin to notice a pattern. How she digs her heels in as a defense mechanism. She’s stubborn and angry to hide her fear. Fear of abandonment. Fear of loss and failure. Yet her strongest sides may be her ability to soldier on independently, the fact that she never gives up even when she is forced to face her worst fears.
Now, obviously, I feel for her as she’s my character, but I think she is relatable for most people. We can identify with her longing for a home and a family, Her deep seated need for love and companionship. It’s easy to root for her and hope she will find these things, even when she infuriates us and refuses to let people love and befriend her.
Over to you, my friend.
– Got any examples of deliciously flawed characters to share with me?
Let’s talk in the comments below or send me a message via socials. Also, remember to post the links below if you use any of my prompts in your own posts. I’d love to come over and see them.
Thank you for being here today!
Love and stuff,
© Evalena Styf, 2021
Writing prompt from #NaNoWriMo Preptober InstaWrimo Challenge: 22 October, 2021. “Character flaw”
The #InstaWrimo is a photo challenge for Instagram, but it works just as well as a daily writing prompt.
Here are the daily writing prompts for NaNoWriMo’s preptober challenge. It’s never too late to start, so let’s get into it. Together.