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Fatal Flaws

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Fatal Flaws

Post by Falcon-eyes on Tue Apr 05, 2016 10:40 pm

I've read that fatal character flaws are essential to thier development, and push the story along in new ways. However, choosing a fatal flaw or flaws that fit with the character is pretty difficult. That got me thinking, does the flaw need to mesh with the character, or should it be such a stark contrast that it puts the character in a whole new light? Both?

Look, I know this is really vague, but how do you choose fatal character flaws? Well, let's go a bit further. Many of these flaws are part of the reason a character is relatable, right? A reminder that this "hero" isn't so pure, that we all have a dark side. How should I approach fatal flaws to create one that gives the character a dark side, makes them relatable, and creates interesting tension within the story?

I find this part of character development very difficult, and often struggle through and fall flat. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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Re: Fatal Flaws

Post by shadowkitty on Wed Apr 06, 2016 5:53 am

It really depends on the character and how relatable and lovable you want them to be. If you give them a flaw that is too evil and dark then you could confuse the reader and disrupt the flow of the story. Negative flaws or traits don't necessarily have to be dark and all consuming. Unless you are prepared to go that way in your story. You need to back it up with appropriate actions and consequences.

It could be something that is just a small idea in the beginning, that builds throughout the story. Maybe it is triggered by a particularly traumatic event. In my opinion, people rarely have such drastic contrasts unless they are a raging psychopath.
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Re: Fatal Flaws

Post by Cordelia on Mon Apr 11, 2016 2:40 am

I wrote an article about making flawed characters. 

How Perfect is "Too Perfect" for Characters and Races in Fiction?

I don't go too much into what flaws you should choose, but it does give some solid background into why flaws work, and what happens when you don't include them.  A lot of it may help guide you to your own answers.

Otherwise, I would say a character's flaw needs to have root in something believable, and probably something personal.  The flaw can be dramatic and shocking when revealed, but it still needs to fit within the nature of the character as they have been demonstrated within the narrative.  You can't just throw something out there to contrast everything we know about the character for the sake of making the flaw dramatic and oppositional; it has to make sense for that character in that world and that situation.

One of my favorite character bases to work with uses pettiness and emotional closure as flaws.  They tend not to let people get emotionally close to them, they're quick to anger and push people away if there's even the potential they might get close, and it all comes down to the fear of being hurt.  They were hurt severely enough in the past, that emotional attachment just means someone else has the opportunity to hurt them again.  Pettiness is a matter of pride -- proving you're right, teaching someone a lesson so they won't cross you again-- it comes down to a need to feel your position (within your own mind) is unchallenged and secure.

These are good flaw types to start with, as they can dictate a lot of the character's choices and reactions right off the bat.  These flaws can war with moral ideals -- "I hate him so much right now for what he did when I let him get close the last time, but there's no way he'll survive this if I walk away now."--, and give you a lot of interesting development and opportunities for character growth.
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