Character, Part II…

Since my friend and writing buddy, Karen made a little post all about me and my little blog, I figured it was time to finish up that promised “Part II” all about character and how to make your MC’s more likable. (And if you haven’t read “Part I,” go do that. Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

So now that we’ve discussed how to make your character more sympathetic, it’s time to move onto the part we as writers occasionally have a difficult time with: Flaws and Handicaps. You see, we spend all of this time creating this awesome character in our minds…someone who has talent, potential, smarts…the list goes on. But we hesitate to make them flawed. Maybe it’s because we want our audience to like our character. Maybe it’s because their journey through the book will present enough challenges in itself, so why make it more difficult?

Excuses, excuses. If you want your character to be believable, you HAVE to give them flaws and handicaps. I’m sorry, but that’s the cold, hard truth.

So, let’s start with flaws. Three main categories (did you know categories was spelled with an “e”? I didn’t. Guess that’s a minor character flaw on my part…my spelling.) are minor, major, and tragic.

Minor character flaws are usually things that simply make your character more human, more accessible. Things like nail biting, hair twirling, etc. that don’t necessarily affect the character or the story to an extreme…but rather make your character who he or she is.

Major character flaws are, well, major. They are so major that they typically affect the outcome of the story. Pride, self-doubt, addictions, extreme fears or phobias…you get the idea.

Then we have the classic “tragic flaw,” which is usually the cause of a character’s ultimate demise. Self-fulfilling prophecies are perhaps my favorite of these, but really any of the classic Greek tragedies involve a tragic flaw. Personally, I think this is a bit of a downer for YA fiction…but what do I know? I’m not published. Yet.

So there we have it…Flaws. I also mentioned Handicaps. What’s the difference, you ask? Well, writing world, let me try and explain. Flaws are basic. Everyone has them. Handicaps, on the other hand, are a bit more pressing. They literally impair your character from doing what they need to do.

I feel that you can give any character a flaw. However, your main character should also have a handicap. Something that will make them bad at what he or she needs to accomplish. Why? Well, first, to give your character an added depth of conflict. Second, to develop a character arc…something that will allow growth and change.

So. (Did I mention I use the word “so” excessively?) There it is. My two cents on the other side of character development…flaws and handicaps. If you think maybe your MC is lacking depth, give it a shot. See what happens. I’d like to think it worked out well for one of my Crit Group buddies whose name rhymes with Faren and a certain character whose name may or may not rhyme with Boda…

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2 Responses to Character, Part II…

  1. Hmm…I wonder who you could be talking about. (And no, everyone, my character’s name is NOT Yoda.)
    It’s funny, I was actually thinking as I read, “Ok, do my characters have major flaws? Handicaps?” Very helpful post, as I’m really working on perfecting my characterization right now. Thanks, Sarah!

  2. Oh great insights!!! I was happy to finally get part II 🙂

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