5 Fake Character Flaws to Avoid

 

by Sara Kopeczky

 

You know this one: in order to come up with relatable characters for your story, you have to give them some flaws. Flaws make characters human, and the fact is that humans are far from being perfect. That being said, in recent fiction I have seen so much of what I call “fake flaws”, because they are not actually flaws: instead of adding depth to the character, they only add to their charming personality (boring).

This happens when the writer falls in love with his/her creation, instead of worrying about the readers who will start yawning at the endless descriptions of how perfect the character is. Anyhow, here are my top 5 most common fake character flaws that I’ve noticed in recent fiction:

Being clumsy: This particularly refers to girls. When you have a young female protagonist, and want people to like her and relate to her, especially if you are writing YA fiction, you cannot go wrong with giving your character a tiny little flaw of being really clumsy. Make sure she trips over things several times during the story. Seriously? They couldn’t come up with anything better? I doubt it.

Being nerdy: In bad writing, being into technology and/or science fiction makes you an overly intellectual person a.k.a. a nerd who is unable to hold a conversation with people. In real life, people are rarely that simple. If the biggest flaw a character has is rambling too much about tech stuff or just watching a particular TV show, it is still a flat character.

Being selfless: Average people rarely sacrifice themselves willingly for others, especially if they don’t know them very well. Having a healthy sense of ego and firm personal boundaries is generally a positive thing. However being a sort of Mother Theresa is hardly what I would call a flaw. I am so tired of reading about all these selfless characters who risk everything for others. That’s not how (most) people work.

Being overprotective: This one is similar to the previous one. I have encountered it more predominantly among male characters. They are brave and intelligent, and also a bit arrogant because they believe that they know what’s best for everybody. They also do not believe that others are capable of surviving without their help, so they follow them everywhere they go and continuously rescue the damsels in distress. Their flaw is that they are too perfect. Give us a break, Supermen.

Being impatient/stubborn: It seems to me that there are so many character out there who are young and brave, but their biggest flaws are impatience and inability to listen to the advice of others. Why can’t it be the other way around? Why can’t a main character be extremely conscientious and calculated and maybe worry about being able to make the right decision, instead of diving head first into whatever adventure they are facing? Maybe because it is way cooler to have a character be impatient than cowardly, but we have heard that story too many times already.

Seriously, this has to stop. In order to create truly relatable characters, we must all just stop writing Superman/Lois Lane characters and think more in the direction of, let’s say, Professor Snape.

 

 

 

Alternately titled Fake Character Flaws.

Guest post contributed by Sara Kopeczky. Sara is an English and Italian teacher living in Croatia. She is the editor of The Split Mind, a magazine dedicated to literature and culture. She is an aspiring author and has published poetry and short fiction in magazines, collections and online. She has won several literary competitions in Croatia and Germany.

16 thoughts on “5 Fake Character Flaws to Avoid

  1. Ive read a few books with stubborn chars or impatient attitude but the real flaws usually show themselves as insecurity and ignorance. Also guilt or naivety. I could see clumsiness being used to introduce the flaw of those mentioned. Perhaps the delivery is the challenge. Or perhaps the chars are intimidated. Id have to read the situation to consider those fake flaws as truly being fake but now i know what I’m looking for. Thank you for the article. Too…stammering is not a flaw and i see this used a lot. JLNicky

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The flaws mentioned sound more like ticks, something minor. They could be used on anyone. So it seems to me that character would be invisible to the reader with no qualities that stand out and say “This Is Me, or Care About Me.” I’ll keep that in mind while developing a character. Thanks for the tips.

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  3. I like your points. I think what people miss is that in developing a “Perfect” character, you miss why they feel they have to be “Perfect.” An example is my central character, Will Diaz. One the outside he is very protective of the people he care about. He’s about the smartest person in the room at any given time, physically strong, and committed to his beliefs and principals. He’s a police officer and see’s himself a sheep dog protecting the sheep against the wolves. His problem is Will has been hurt, not only physically but emotionally. He’s known huge injustices. And he’ll damned if it’s going to happen on his watch. He’s hopes for the best in people, but expects them to let him down or worse, try to kill him and those around him.

    I really think he just might be a little crazy. Only a crazy person would make a living expecting to be shot at during it.

    Being a perfect character is a great door to open because it often time shows the character as anything but perfect.

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  4. I think the advice here is valid, but to me, the issue begins when you think in terms of ‘flaws’ and ‘qualities’ as if those are absolutes. Less focus on the ‘whats’ of the character and more on the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ creates depth and good character traits, in general, are the best when they can be considered qualities in some situations and flaws in others. A character being stubborn can mean that they don’t give up easily, which can be great, but at the same time… They don’t give up easily. Even in that one situation when they definitely should.

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  5. Ugh so true. I’m a young writer myself (as in very young) and I can never get good characters that also have good flaws. Any advice on how to avoid having “flat flaws”?

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  6. Good post. You have effectively outlined all the formulas people revert to without often even meaning to because they believe characters should be flawed as opposed to the fact that characters, people if you like, are flawed. We have to let the character show us as they interact..

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  7. Brilliant post! Clumsiness is used wayyy too often and doesn’t count as a flaw. And yeah, nerdiness is not a flaw!! The absolute pits for me is when people are portrayed as too selfless- like that’s a flaw (it also makes them mildly annoying, cos like you said, it’s not how most people operate).

    Like

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