Over the weekend, I had the Oswego region’s Kick-Off party. While there was only a handful of us that were able to make it, it allowed me to get to know some of the participants better. We also got to talking about our books and characters. I was asked a question that for some reason, I had trouble answering
What are your character’s flaws?
Shit. I drew a blank at that question. I knew that my character isn’t perfect. She’s involved in some pretty seedy things and gets herself into a hell of a lot of trouble. But it got me thinking– what exactly are my character’s flaws?
I spent the rest of the weekend trying to mull it over and read through her character sketch at least ten times. I went from ‘I’ve got this” to “Oh my god I have no clue what I’m doing next month” and then went back and forth a couple of times. This morning I did a quick Google search for “character flaws” to try to come up with something so that I could stop freaking out.
I found generators and lists of character flaws and explored them. I wasn’t looking to create a character based on flaws that a generator came up with, but ones that I knew would fit my character and her personality. While I browsed through lists they came to me, and for the time being I feel much better about my NaNoWriMo novel that I will begin in just a few, short days.
In order to be realistic, your characters need to have some sort of flaws to go with their redeeming or good qualities.
Otherwise you tun the risk of having flat, boring characters that are dangerously close to being a Mary Sue. One of my biggest fears is realizing that after spending so much time writing and revising my book, that I have a Mary Sue main character on my hands.
No real person is flawless and we want our characters to be as real as possible— why would we expect our characters to be flawless?
Giving your characters flaws makes them feel real to the reader, makes them more dynamic, and gives you something to help them grow and change throughout the novel.
Likewise, your antagonist can’t be all flaws. You want them to have some redeeming quality somewhere (even if it has to do with their past or back story).
Overall, I’m really glad that this issue was brought to my attention.
Even if it did cause a whole weekend of self-doubt and “can I do this?”. My characters and novel will be so much more interesting as a result– and even better, my main character will not be a Mary Sue, and I understand her so much more.