“K” is for Klutz
Thoughts on Character Flaws
I was an awkward girl and a klutzy teen. The majority of my friends seemed to have it all together. They moved through life with relative grace and ease.
One day in grade school, I was strolling across the playground with a friend, deep in conversation, and next thing I knew I was wrapped around a tetherball pole.
Other times, I got up to leave a classroom and my purse dragged me back to my desk, the strap hooked around the chair. Or only some of my books came with me, the others diving to the floor.
These humiliating experiences have inspired one of the characters in my Christian teen fiction: Caitlyn Summer. Caitlyn is super sweet, but she’s thin, shapeless, and klutzy. Caitlyn gets tangled in the streamers of a hanging plant, she trips climbing stairs, and worse: she blurts out things that should’ve remained secret. Her flaws humble and humiliate her but they also change the direction of the story.While we want our characters to have admirable qualities and unique skills and abilities, every character needs flaws. This allows readers to either identify with or feel compassion for them. Character flaws can add tension or humor to a scene, stand in the way of a character attaining his or her goals, and give the character something to strive to overcome.
They can be little things like a coffee addiction or fear of spiders or snakes. They can be deep psychological or moral weaknesses like pride, cowardice, and distrust.
How do you get a character’s flaws into the story?
Demonstrate it through their actions, thoughts, and dialog. They might not even see it as a flaw at first. Over the course of the story, reveal character flaws so that they are fully exposed to the character by the end of the story. In addition to beating the antagonist, give the protagonist something within themselves that they must overcome in order to bring about the victory.
If you are a fiction writer, I’d love to hear how you come up with character flaws. Please leave a comment.