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F is for Character Flaw

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Welcome to Week F of Authors' Tips: A to Z of Writing.
If this is the first time you are visiting this blog, here's a quick recap.

In this series authors share their tips on writing fiction - and each week we share our insights on various aspects of writing.

So for Alphabet F, let's talk about Flaws. 

Have you met the Perfect Human who doesn't have a single flaw -- no matter how small? And I'm not talking about 'looks' here, but traits. Well, that would be well-nigh impossible. Likewise, in fiction too, we can't get away by creating the Perfect Protagonist. Why? a) Because a man/woman who doesn't have any flaws or imperfections is simply too good to be true. And fiction has to be believable. b) It would be extremely boring for a reader to read about a man/woman who is well, just too perfect!

As they say, there's no such thing as a perfect diamond. So too, with your characters. The 'flaw' is what makes your character react to a situation in a unique way and take decisions that adds drama and conflict to your story.

Here's an example from the movie Casablanca. Set in the backdrop of the Second World War, the movie tells the story of Rick, an expatriate American who runs a 'gin joint' in Casablanca. He is cynical and bitter having suffered a heartbreak. But when the girl, Ilsa, who broke his heart turns up at his bar and asks for his help so that her husband Victor can get away from the Nazis, he has a difficult choice to make. Will he use the transit letters that he has to help Victor escape or will he carry through with his plan of persuading Ilsa to run away with him?

Rick's (played by Humphrey Bogart) flaws are pretty much in evidence -- his cynicism, bitterness and his inability to put his heartbreak behind him -- and drive his actions and decisions. He wants Ilsa back in his life at any cost. Ilsa (played by Ingrid Bergman) has her own flaw -- she is indecisive and is torn between the two men in her life.

Both characters' flaws drive the story, adding drama and conflict. It also helps create a strong character arc for Rick -- from a bitter man who is obsessed about his own grief and loss to a man who sacrifices himself to save Victor from the Nazis.

In its essence, a story is all about how a character grows and evolves. This emotional growth of the protagonist is what adds to the character's appeal. He/she becomes more relatable to the reader. It adds internal conflict, helps raise the stakes for the character and makes the audience more emotionally involved with your protagonist. A flaw is that one crucial element in your character's makeup that can make all the difference to your story. 

Who is your favourite character and why? Do share your thoughts.

For more tips on fiction writing don't forget to check out these posts for Week F:

F - First Person Narration by Devika Fernando

F - Fantasy by Ruchi Singh

F - Flashback in Fiction by Reet Singh

F - The Magnificent First Sentence or First Paragraph by Preethi Venugopala





Comments

  1. Good points. Characters with flaws are much more relatable. I always think 'Pride & Prejudice' is a great example for this. We all love Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, but both of them have flaws (such as those mentioned in the title).

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  2. What a wonderful example, Devika! The theme and flaws are both expressed in the title. :)

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  3. Very true,it is the flaw which makes a character believable and interesting.And of course it helps the plot to move on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It sure does! Thanks for dropping by, Indu. :)

      Delete
  4. True - characters are so much more believable if they have flaws in addition to whatever super-powers the author wants them to have!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely, Reet! Thanks for reading. :)

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