What do you mean I’m flawed?
- June 5, 2019
- Tracee de Hahn
They have to have it: characters need flaws. But can it be too much?
The enormously successful book GONE GIRL hinged on the flaws of female protagonist Amy Elliott Dunne. She is conniving and murderous. She lies. She deceives. She is irrational. She also started a trend of unreliable narration. So she must have been doing something right.
Amy is not the first protagonist to have flaws, she is simply at the far end of the spectrum.
Think about Elizbeth Bennett. The heroine of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE may be universally admired, but she was flawed: too outspoken. Too willing to walk her own path and unwilling to do what society expected, even if that meant risking her financial stability.
Lisbeth Salander from THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is another “Elizabeth” who is boss of her world. She has a strict moral code, which strays from mainstream life. She is promiscuous and anti-social. She is also whip-smart and key to the success of the series.
Main characters have flaws. They are also balanced. We forgive Lisbeth’s behavior because she is willing to do anything to help those she’s loyal to, and she is so smart we want to see her succeed. Cannibalistic serial kill Hannibal Lector is (partially) redeemed by his excellent manners and cleverness. How’s that for balance?
Some character flaws are in danger of being overused: the drunk divorced lonely cop, for example. Right up there with the hooker with the heart of gold.
However, flaws bring characters to life and make them relatable. They are essential.
Find the ‘right’ flaw and you will find the balance that gives a character his or her full potential.
Who are your favorite characters and what are their flaws? Any flaws you wish had never been created? (Agatha Christie certainly grew to hate some of Hercule Poirot’s! The very things that made him beloved.)
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