And the flipside is using flaws / negative traits
Hobble your character with flaws
- A flaw is a negative quality that emerges in a character’s personality as a result of an emotionally hurtful experience
- Just as we have a survival response for physical dangers (fight or flight), we instinctively protect our emotions from harm as well
- Flaws act as unhealthy emotional armour to ensure the same emotional pain doesn’t happen again
Flaws have deep roots, it is hard to get rid of them.
Howw negative traits (flaws) form
- Antagonistic caregivers
- Poor role models
- Parasitic people who promote negativity, sabotage self-esteem, cause hurt and otherwise inhibit character’s self-growth
Wounding experience, situations and events:
- An interaction that erodes self-confidence and leaves one feeling vulnerable and fearful
- Negative lift lessons and bias learned through exposure to a longer term difficult situation
Flaws power up storytelling
- Through realism and empathy
No-one is perfect – readers have flaws too
Flaws lead to mistakes and failures, and readers empathise with how it feels to screw up
Primes the reader to cheer for the hero/ heroine and for them to achieve self-growth
Flaws build tension and conflict
- Fear and bias leave them open to emotional triggers
- Character becomes own worst enemy (volatile reactions, bad judgement, poor decisions and mistakes)
- Damages relationships with others
- Whatever weakens hero strengthens antagonist
What does your character fear?
- characters will do almost anything to avoid what they fear
- While ‘protecting’ against emotional pain, they actually chain the character to their fears by inhibiting self-growth
Flaws reveal emotional wound and the character’s false belief
- A painful past event, situation or hurtful set of circumstances that they fear will happen again
- The lie the character believes about themselves is a result of guilt, shame, or poor self-worth, or it is about the world at large due to disillusionment
- The wound is not always based in logic – it is how the character connects the dots in their own mind between a set of actions and a negative/wounding outcome
- Character has ‘aha!’ moment when realises how fears are holding back
Flaws – a driver for change
- Flaws trip character up at worse of times and they wonder why this keeps happening
- They see their flaws for what they are and take ownership
- Reflection and an unquenchable desire for a goal leads to change
Planning the fatal flaw: crucial to character arc
To achieve one’s goal
- The fatal flaw must be minimised or subdued
- Fears must be faced
- One see The Lie for what it is, and The Wound loses its power
- Strong and whole, obstacles are overcome
Step 4: strive for the unexpected
What makes your character unique?
- Skills and talents
- Unique qualities
- Passionate beliefs or special insights
How can you surprise the readers?
Challenge typical stereotypes and offer readers something new
Who needs gimmicks? Build original characters who fascinate
- Conflicting traits
- Unusual habits or quirks
- Give them a secret
Step 5: Planning a character’s emotional range and sensibilities
No two characters should express emotions in the same way, give each an individual response
Questions to ask
- Is my character demonstrative or reserved?
- What is his / her comfort zone when it comes to emotions?
- How much personal space does character need to feel comfortable expressing emotions?
- What events, people or situations act as emotional triggers?
Charting a character’s emotional landscape
- Think about core emotions and know how your character might respond
- Know which emotions are hot buttons
- Understand how extreme emotions can cause morals to shift or steer reactions
When it comes to Emotions, empathy is especially important
Encourage ‘shared experience’ by conveying emotion in a believable way
Make sure all emotions it with the character’s personality
NOTE: I am not exactly sure where Step 3 started. It was somewhere in all those positive and negative traits!