What makes a hero or heroine? That is a question that has been wrestled for centuries, and the battle lives on. My POV? In good fiction there are two parallel arcs, the plot arc and the character arc. The protagonist, in the beginning, should possess some weakness or flaw that would make it impossible for him/her to solve the story problem and be triumphant if the Big Boss Battle happened right then. Often this weakness or flaw is one of character (protagonist is hot-headed) not logistics (I.e. protagonist is outnumbered by the enemy).
The protagonist might be a fraidy cat who is spooked by her own shadow (Joan Wilder in Romancing the Stone) or an impetuous spitfire looking for a fight who needs to learn control, self-discipline, and tangible fighting skills (Danny Larusso in Karate Kid).
The Flaw Makes the Characters Relatable
All of us struggle with something. Everyone’s strongest asset is also their greatest liability (blind spot). Tenacity is a wonderful characteristic that has the power to change the world, but persistence looks a lot like stupid if we are going the wrong direction and refuse to turn around.
I know my greatest strength is I can see the good in everybody. Want to know my greatest weakness? I see the good in everybody. I tend to be on the naive side and have been taken advantage of. We all have this shadow side. If we are ambitious, we also tend to walk over people and forget they have feelings. If we are sensitive and kind, we also risk being a doormat.
The Flaw Creates the Hook
I see a lot of new writers who start the book with the world’s perfect character, and that is a mistake. Why? Because we (the audience) can’t relate. Flaws are part of what bind us as humans, and that initial flaw is often responsible for the hook. We all hear how we need to hook readers early. Often “hooking the reader” has less to do with ninjas and terrorists and more to do with being able to make readers relate to the protagonist, step into his or her shoes and care.
When Danny Larusso (Karate Kid) is beaten up by bullies, we relate. We know what it is like to be victimized, and so we become vested and we want to see his journey through to the end. We are…hooked.
The Flaw Creates the Tension
Let’s talk a second about Romancing the Stone. If Joan Wilder had been more like Lara Croft from Tomb Raider, would the story have been as interesting? We have no worries that zillionaire Lara Croft with her secret lab and arsenal and ninjitsu training can rescue her sister from thieves. But what about the timid romance author who talks to her cat?
When we meet Joan Wilder, we are all wondering the same thing. How the heck is she going to pull this off? With Lara Croft, we don’t worry, and I feel that is why movies based off video games are less satisfying as stories. We all want to see the CGI, perhaps, but the story is limited because the characters are “perfect.”
We can’t relate with being a zillionaire with a secret lab, but we can relate to being afraid and out of our depth. This is why Romancing the Stone will be a movie enjoyed by all generations, while Tomb Raider will look cheesy and dumb the second that the CGI improves.
We need real characters who make real decisions…most of them dumb. We all do dumb stuff and that is often when we have the most conflict, drama and tension in our lives. Characters with flaws will act out those flaws. It is the plot (story problem) and the other characters (mentor, allies, minions) who will hit these pain points and create change. Good fiction is birthed by poor choices and if all our characters are fully self-actualized and never do anything stupid, it makes for dull fiction.
Understand the Flaw and Understand the Plot and the Party
When we create our protagonist, we need to give them flaws and they need to be forgivable flaws. I think this was a HUGE mistake in the Star Wars prequels. The journey of Annakin Skywalker stopped when he became a little-kid-killer. After that point in the movie, I didn’t care what happened to him so long as it was extraordinarily painful. There was no redeeming a little-kid-killer.
So assuming we as writers can stay away from unforgivable flaws, these are the pain points for plotting. If our protagonist is a control freak, put her in situations where he has no control (M’Lynn, played by Sally Fields in Steel Magnolias). If your protagonist is a free spirit clown used to no rules, put him somewhere with strict rules and regulations (John played by Bill Murray in Stripes).
This extends to allies as well. The best allies are going to help drive that character arc. Often they will represent that element that needs to change. This is why it will generate so much tension. The tension is from growing pains.
Think about the series Bones. Special Agent Booth is a reckless cowboy who charges in using gut instinct and intuition. He is paired with Dr. Temperance Brennan aka “Bones.” If she were any more analytical, she’d be a cyborg. She has a hard time connecting emotionally. Booth needs to learn to think and Bones needs to learn to feel. Each buttresses the other’s weaknesses and make each other grow in weak areas, thereby strengthening the partnership. Yet, at the same time, Booth and Bones continually clash, and it is this tension between personalities that drives much of the story tension.
Flaws Help Provide the Victory
How we can tell the protagonist has grown is, whatever stood in the protagonist’s path in the beginning of the adventure, he/she now overcomes willingly. This is the moment when the protagonist is promoted to the title of hero/heroine. The plot cannot be fully satisfied and the problem cannot be resolved until the protagonist faces his or her shadow side and chooses a different path. The reckless spitfire maintains his cool. The fraidy cat writer charges in after the thieves. The browbeaten housewife yells TOWANDA! and stands up for herself and we all cheer. The bigger the flaw, the sweeter the victory.
Plot is important. We should strive to create an interesting problem, but when we really understand character, this is when the most basal of problems can become intricate and brilliant. A so-so plot can become extraordinary with the right cast of characters. If you need a good reference book, I recommend Bob Mayer’s Novel Writer’s Toolkit and James Scott Bell’s The Art of War for Writers. So what are your thoughts? What are some of your favorite character flaws? Do you find you gravitate to books and movies that have characters who are struggling with the same issues you do?
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of June, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
***Changing the contest.
It is a lot of work to pick the winners each week. Not that you guys aren’t totally worth it, but with the launch of WANA International and WANATribe I need to streamline. So I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners will now have one business week (5 days) to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of June I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.
#1 by barbaramattio on June 25, 2012 - 2:57 pm
very interesting. I can be naive and cynical and sarcastic and advocating all at the same time. I liked this a lot. Thanks.
#2 by Left-Brained Business for Write-Brained People on June 25, 2012 - 3:07 pm
Great post! I could sit and “listen” to you talk about Joan Wilder and Romancing the Stone all day–one of my favorite all-time movies and characters. However, I think the best line you wrote in this post is:
“…but persistence looks a lot like stupid if we are going the wrong direction and refuse to turn around.”
No truer words have ever been said about writing or about life. Bravo!
#3 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 25, 2012 - 3:25 pm
Thanks, LOL. Well, I am, if anything, persistent. But after doing so many dumb things “without giving up” I one day realized that persistence DOES look a lot like stupid, and that gave me permission to make changes.
#4 by Cheryl Fassett on June 25, 2012 - 3:07 pm
thanks for this post. I always have a difficult time giving my heros/heroines flaws but I know that is what makes the reader connect with them. Something I will continue working on as a writer.
#5 by Lanette Kauten on June 25, 2012 - 3:10 pm
Good post. My MC is a naive, idealistic, free spirited American, so I punted her over to a post- Eastern Bloc country to live with her serious cousin who grew up with Communism. That seems to be my favorite character flaw or set of flaws because they’re likeable, relateable, and a good smack of reality always makes for good tension and sympathy.
#6 by sharonhughson on June 25, 2012 - 3:12 pm
I now see why my novel has never found a home. My character is entirely too perfect and even though I’ve bombarded her with a painful past (something I easily relate to in a character) and tons of problems, I’m guessing she just isn’t relatable because she really has no character flaws (unless always choosing to do the right thing is a character flaw).
As usual, thanks for these words of wisdom. I was immediately pondering character flaws for the protagonist and her allies in my newest WIP.
I completely agree with you about the forgivable flaw aspect and Anakin didn’t experience enough pain to make up for being a kid killer, in my opinion. What surprises me, though, is that my sons easily felt he redeemed himself by the end of episode VI. I disagree because I didn’t see true repentance in his murder of the Emperor…just more killing, even if it was for the right reason (to save his son).
#7 by Chihuahua Zero on June 25, 2012 - 3:39 pm
Hmm…if you still want “always choosing the right thing to do” to be a “real” flaw, maybe her choices often harm herself and other people (like throwing away her job for the sake of helping the woman that is getting harassed across the office).
Basically, Samaritan Syndrome, as in always having the obligation to help people. And then make her stubborn about it. Maybe she actually makes a wrong choice out of misjudgement and ignorance, or she refuses to let things go even when she’s causing harm, or she clings onto one thing and refuses to tend to other matters that might be more important.
Even a hero can be a bad parent, spouse and friend, and they lose a lot from doing what’s right.
Oh, and sometimes a hero has unsympathetic moments, like getting angry or doing something selfish. They might recoil though, but only after someone gets hurt or something gets broken.
Just throwing out some suggestions.
#8 by Surlygit on June 26, 2012 - 3:36 pm
The Heroes by Joe Ambercrombie actually does this very well.
He has three MCs
The Coward, the Straight Edge, and the self-censoring Observer.
The Coward faces his fears in a small way and redeems himself to a certain extent
The Straight Edge always does the right thing to the point that he turns his best friend in for breaking faith and cannot forgive himself
And the Observer cannot speak the truth to the woman he loves and loses her.
The book centres around their flaws and shadow selves are their biggest struggles for the most part.
By deliberately not bringing any of them to overcome these shadow selves Ambercrombie delivers on the book’s tagline: One battle, three men, no heroes
#9 by tomburkhalter on June 25, 2012 - 3:28 pm
Kristen, you may have noticed I’m sort of skeptical about rules, but you’ve answered a question here that I’ve never seen anyone else tackle. More to the point, you did it quickly and well!
No one, in all the reading I’ve been doing in the last decade or so, has ever bothered to define “the hook” or how to generate it! Maybe I’ve just been reading the wrong books, but still, the way you related “hook” to “protagonist’s character flaw” to “conflict” made a lot of thing clear to me in a useful way.
Maybe it helped that you used one of my favorite all-time movies, the original Karate Kid. (Sorry, Jacky, you’re really great, but you’ll never beat Pat Morita.) Once you put that in terms of what Daniel Larusso went through, it sank in!
#10 by Lanette Kauten on June 26, 2012 - 10:28 am
You just gave me a lightbulb moment! I’ve been working on my query, but with it being a character driven novel as opposed to plot driven, I’ve had some difficulty with it. Now I’ll start off the query with a flaw = conflict type statement.
#11 by tomburkhalter on June 27, 2012 - 12:29 pm
Cool! That’s what WANA is all about!
#12 by Chihuahua Zero on June 25, 2012 - 3:31 pm
Flaws and virtues are essential for all important characters pretty much. But especially important with heroes. One problem is making sure those flaws aren’t too strong as to make the hero unsympathetic when he/she’s supposed to be (especially a problem when you throw in gender and romance in the equation), but it’s sometimes hit-and-miss, I guess.
For example, I’m making sure that my narrator’s flaws translate into his virtues, in a way.
#13 by Icy Sedgwick on June 25, 2012 - 4:23 pm
I think it almost applies to villains as well – we need to have some way of resonating with them so that their actions appear to be justifiable to themselves, if not to anyone else. Otherwise they run the risk of appearing to be a cartoon baddie.
#14 by Tamara LeBlanc on June 25, 2012 - 5:03 pm
Reading this post while I’m in the midst of editing is very helpful. Not only does it remind me of the many details that are necessary to make a book a page turner, but it makes me smile too…because as I read through your wisdom I said to myself, “I did that, I did that, I wrote that, etc!”
Whew, maybe I DID learn a thing or two over the years.
I LOVE a flawed hero and heroine. You’re right, Romancing the Stone IS so much more satisfying than Laura Croft. And I also agree that in 20 yrs RTS will still be an enjoyable flick while LCTR (though Angelina is certainly something to look at) will fall by the wayside.
It’s funny that you blog about this today because I really like watching Big Bang Theory (I’m watching an episode as we speak) To me, that show is full of flawed “heroes”. Heck, if Sheldon had been written as a brainiac and a lady-killer, would he be a likeable?
I also agree with Icy Sedgwick, above. A villain’s character is just as important as a hero or heroine’s. Sure they’re flawed, they’re bad guys, but the best villains are the ones we can relate to on a human level…like the evil queen from Snow White. Sure, she was a nut-job. Sure, she wanted sweet little Snow’s heart cut out of her chest and stuffed into a box. The crazy monarch dabbled in black magic too. But hey, the chic was insecure, worried about wrinkles and hated the idea of getting older.
Who among us hasn’t agonized over the same notions?
Great post! Even greater wisdom.
Have a wonderful evening,
#15 by mymidlifemayhem on June 25, 2012 - 5:37 pm
Thanks for the advice. I have just returned to the skeleton of a book I’ve been trying to write for a lifetime. Love your analogy with Steel Magnolias and Sally Field as I think that might be my protagonist’s ‘fault’ – the controlling issue – love that film.
#16 by Lance on June 25, 2012 - 5:49 pm
I have been told that my writing style tends to favor anti-heros. One of the reasons I don’t like a lot of the books that become popular is the protagonist isn’t flawed enough.
Personally, I’m a complete mess. I suffer from an anxiety disorder that requires pills and therapy. I’m estranged from my parents and sister. My ex-wife can’t be in the same public place with me without some sort of scene. Yet, I manage to be a good father to 3 girls. Mmy wife loves me. I have a good job. And I think I can write. The point is, for a messed up, bat-crazy whack job I’m kind of a nice guy who’s raising 3 great kids. A book about me may be not sell because I’m just some dude. But I’m not boring.
The important part of a main character/protagonist/hero is making them intriquing, relatable, and worth turning the page. The main character of my novel is a hot mess of booze, bad relationships, poverty and drama. But she’s crazy talented and extremely rootable.
It’s why more people like Batman than Superman. Superman’s a perfect alien. Batman’s a revenge-obsessed human that works at night.
#17 by Lanette Kauten on June 26, 2012 - 10:32 am
I love anti-heroes. Yes, even Anakin, aka Darth Vador.
I agree with your super hero assessment. Batman’s always been my fav, partly because of his darker side.
#18 by Lance on June 26, 2012 - 1:03 pm
#19 by Alastair Rosie on June 25, 2012 - 6:01 pm
Thanks for sharing that. I know with the novel I’m editing now, an epic fantasy I definitely have flawed heroes/heroines, or good people who have had terrible things done to them, as in Wallace’s wife in Braveheart, Murron. However with the vampire one I’ve been playing around with now and then I get so far and get stuck, thinking about it perhaps my characters in that book are too perfect with no desire for change. It’s interesting because I know the rules only too well and yet without thinking about it I’ve fallen in love with these characters and made them too good. I think it’s a mistake even experienced writers can fall into if they’re not careful. Sometimes we want the reader to like our protagonist so much we overcompensate instead of just letting them move through different scenes. A character grows on you in the same way as people do in real life. It’s by their actions and choices that we begin to identify and love them. That’s my take on it anyway.
#20 by jillksayre on June 25, 2012 - 6:24 pm
This post just gave me an “aha”! moment!! I know what to do! I know what to do! ‘The flaw creates the hook’ is such a clear idea that makes sense. Thanks for this post, Kristen!
#21 by Lynn Kelley on June 25, 2012 - 6:50 pm
This is one of my favorite posts by you so far. It all makes perfect sense. The analogies are so helpful. Romancing the Stone is one of my favorite movies. I love Karate Kid, too. Lots to think about.
#22 by HankeringforHistory on June 25, 2012 - 7:07 pm
Excellent article. I am reading a book right now: Lies My Teachers Told Me, by:James W. Lowen…and it fits perfectly with what you are saying. That the heroification of our countries heroes and Founding Fathers is disgracing history. Interesting stuff. Keep up the good work!
#23 by Tam on June 25, 2012 - 7:46 pm
Hey, I hope you don’t mind me commenting here, but I couldn’t find a contact. I was wondering if you have a contents list somewhere? I’ve been following your blog for awhile, I love how you explain different concepts in a way that really sticks in my head eg the big boss trouble maker! Now and then I want to dip into your posts on a particular topic ahead of working on it or when I’m having trouble with something, but it’s really hard to find the relevant ones. It’s like having a giant reference manual you know is full of goodies but with no contents list. The search function doesn’t work that great for finding things easily as it returns whole posts which just mention a phrase instead of being about it. It would be great to have a list of post titles grouped by topic to whiz down and easily find the right one 🙂
#24 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 25, 2012 - 8:02 pm
Yes, this is the second request to do that. I will see about sorting it out for you guys :D.
#25 by Fiona Marsden on June 25, 2012 - 7:54 pm
THanks for that Kristen. It explains so much. I think in writing, especially romance writing, we are tempted to paint ourselves the perfect man. Then we might like to clean ourselves up to be the perfect heroine. Am I boring you yet? I have a category WIP at the moment with a hero I call Sleazeguy. I wrote him because I was getting sick of category heroes who are sleeping with their mistress on the first page like the night before they fall in love (or lust) with the heroine. I hate ‘other women’ up front with my hero like that. I hate heroes who are ruled by their libido. So because I’m contrary I decided to write a hero that had that particular character flaw. Or at least his actions and poor choices make him appear to have that flaw. Enough that his prudish judgemental, deeply religious heroine wouldn’t be able to see past it. I’m loving this story and I’m loving my deeply flawed hero. So far I’ve humiliated him and shamed her. Is it wrong to torture the ones I love?
#26 by jodenton445 on June 25, 2012 - 8:06 pm
Very interesting post! Agree with you about what makes Romancing the Stone a classic. Also about the no redeeming qualities in a kid-killer. Being able to relate is so important, like you say. It’s what makes me put a book down or keep reading. Thanks so much for your insight.
#27 by DebE on June 25, 2012 - 8:49 pm
This is a really valuable article, Kristen. I like your points about the greatest strengths also being the greatest weaknesses, and the example of Bones where the strengths/weaknesses of the main protags complement each other – worth keeping in mind! I can already see how I can re-write some parts of my own WiP to emphasize these traits.
#28 by Joanne Guidoccio on June 25, 2012 - 9:10 pm
Excellent post! I agree that we must give our protagonists flaws. Lily white characters have little appeal and lack that extra dimension which endears them to the reader.
#29 by John Holton on June 25, 2012 - 9:25 pm
I love the picture at the beginning of the article! And you’re right, the hero needs flaws and the villain needs redeeming qualities.
#30 by Deanne Teryn on June 25, 2012 - 9:27 pm
Great post. I have to disagree (and maybe it’s a personal thing) with this: “We need real characters who make real decisions…most of them dumb. We all do dumb stuff and that is often when we have the most conflict, drama and tension in our lives.”
It irritates me no end when characters make dumb decisions, especially dumb decisions most of the time. The drama and conflict resulting from dumb or selfish decisions (in reality and fiction) leaves me with no sympathy for the person (including when that person is me!) who brought it all on themselves. There are other ways to have characters make the “wrong” decision (that is, decisions that result in high tension).
#31 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 26, 2012 - 6:55 am
Deanne, I agree that we have to be careful of this, and often it is the secondary characters who will do the really dumb things. It is the little sister who overreacts and runs off right as the protagonist needs to do some important thing. Make sense? Also, if our core character makes all the right decisions from the beginning, there is nowhere to grow. And dumb decisions don’t have to be over the top. In “Romancing the Stone” one of Joan Wilder’s flaws is she is sheltered and naive. This leads her to go to South America wearing a designer pants suit and heels. Who wears something like that to Columbia?
#32 by chadcarver on June 25, 2012 - 9:44 pm
I loved this post, Kristen. Thanks for all of your hard work. Of course, all of your suggestions make good sense, and I will keep them in mind, but the comical thing about my experience reading this blog is that I was more concerned with jumping over to download all of the movies that you use as examples. I have seen bits of each, but not one of them have I seen start to finish. I guess it’s move week for me;-)
#33 by Whitney Rains on June 25, 2012 - 9:49 pm
First I must say, I love that you referenced Romancing the Stone! I love that movie. I completely agree with the use of character flaw. When creating characters, its essential for them to have flaws that they will have to fight to overcome, otherwise the story goes no where. Inspiring article!
#34 by billgncs on June 25, 2012 - 9:56 pm
I would like to hear more about the arc’s and how the plot arc and protaganist arcs relate. Should they be congruent, or is there a typical relationship that tends to work best ?
thanks — this was a very useful post
#35 by Serena Dracis, Author on June 25, 2012 - 10:14 pm
This is such a helpful post! As always, Kristen, I learn something new every time I read your blog. Thank you!
#36 by amyskennedy on June 25, 2012 - 10:54 pm
Yikes! Have the flaw(s) for all the secondary characters — have huge conflict…don’t actually have THE flaw for heroine. Slaps forehead. And now a meek thank you.
#37 by Poodlepal on June 26, 2012 - 7:57 am
This was a very well-written article with good advice and examples. Interestingly, though, I think a lot of people want to read about perfect characters, at least in the romance genre. I heard a story about an “unsympathetic” heroine in a rejected manuscript who went through her boyfriend’s garbage and tricked him into a limo ride. To me that shows someone who is spunky and resourceful.
#38 by marsharwest on June 26, 2012 - 9:26 am
Great post, Kristen. Writing too perfect characters is an issue I’ve struggled with for several books. The most helpful thing you said was “make the strongest asset the greatest liability.” I really identified on a personal basis. (I’ve been called “outspoken” boy both fans and detractors. LOL) I’m eager to apply the concept to my current WIP. Thanks for the clarity.
#39 by mandyevebarnett on June 26, 2012 - 10:14 am
Excellent information here – thank you – I will be sure to follow & pop back regularly. With a novella & two novels in process every bit of help counts!
#40 by dianekrause865 on June 26, 2012 - 1:12 pm
This post was great, and timely for me. I’m trying to strengthen a character in my WIP — this helped! I’ve added a post to my blog that links back to you, mentions your book, AND recommends signing up on your mailing list. 🙂 You can find it here:
I love your posts and am glad to have found you!
#41 by Julie Glover on June 26, 2012 - 4:00 pm
I have been watching BONES, and I just realized that Booth and Brennen are James T. Kirk and Spock! In personalities and flaws anyway. Thanks for that Aha! moment.
I also think that your discussion of Croft vs. Wilder shows why the first Spiderman (Tobie Macguire) was so appealing. There was an actual story of a not-so-amazing guy who got bullied, couldn’t figure out how to get the girl he wanted, and lost his uncle. Now I’m rooting for him when he gets bitten by a genetically-altered spider and finds himself with supernatural abilities!
#42 by KM Huber on June 26, 2012 - 4:00 pm
As you know, I’m a great fan of the essay, and Kristen your essays on craft are so clear they are timeless. I know, as I save them to read and re-read. Your series on structure and your discussion of antagonist are without equal, in my estimation.
In this post, you provide us with the completely cogent revelation regarding the hook: get the reader to relate to the protagonist’s flaw and invest in the story.
It is my sincere hope that I get to add another Kristen Lamb book to my collection, her essays on craft. In the meantime, I have her blog posts.
Yet another fine essay, Kristen.
#43 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 26, 2012 - 4:02 pm
I need to stick these suckers together into books. Thanks for always being so complimentary. It is really appreciated :D.
#44 by KM Huber on June 26, 2012 - 5:27 pm
Your work with WANA is groundbreaking, Kristen. As I have mentioned previously, the WANA philosophy is such a bright light for writers and writing. Clearly, I do not think its impact can be overstated. Thank you, Kristen Lamb, for all the days that are not easy.
#45 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 26, 2012 - 6:00 pm
Awww, well you guys are what make WANA work, but thank you. I know the feeling is mutual. If I am down or discouraged, I know I just have to come here or anywhere in social media and the WANAs will cheer me up. We…are…literally….EVERYWHERE! Yay! Like Tribbles!
#46 by Ed Crandell on June 26, 2012 - 5:40 pm
Loved it! This is always what I’ve believed, just put eloquently!
#47 by Laurie Evans on June 26, 2012 - 9:33 pm
I 3rd the request about an easier way to search posts, although I know it would be a ton of work.
Yet another post that really clears things up for this newbie writer. I read things about character flaws, etc, elsewhere, but when I read about it on HERE, I *get* it.
I LOVE Romancing the Stone. And that scene where they talk about Anakin killing the younglings? ughhhh. They lost me there. Actually, they lost me in the first 5 minutes of that movie, but I hate those prequels.
#48 by darcyflynn on June 26, 2012 - 9:38 pm
As always, you explain things so well and with such wonderful imagery! Speaking of imagery, Wana’s are everywhere like Tribbles! Love that and you made me think of that fantastic and memorable Star Trek episode! Haven’t thought about it in years! Thanks! 🙂
#49 by Owen Banner on June 27, 2012 - 1:37 am
Great piece, Kristen. I have always been drawn towards deeply flawed characters. The choices they make and the consequences they result in are often more important than the plot set pieces that the author puts in place. Even if a movie or novel has an incredible visual appeal and an interesting plot, without character development, I walk away feeling that something was missing. In my new novel, Hindsight, I have written it from a first person point of view. I think that in doing so, the author has an even greater responsibility to understand his/her character’s flaws and motivations that drive their actions. You can’t be inside someone’s head without bumping into their character flaws.
#50 by truedesignliving on June 27, 2012 - 2:46 am
a great help – thanks
#51 by Jane Bailey Bain ('LifeWorks') on June 27, 2012 - 11:38 am
Wonderful, and so true in real life as well!
#52 by Jane Bailey Bain ('LifeWorks') on June 27, 2012 - 11:41 am
So true in real life too!
#53 by Left-Brained Business for Write-Brained People on June 27, 2012 - 11:56 am
#54 by HankeringforHistory on June 27, 2012 - 2:27 pm
Crazy, I just wrote about the same thing, but titled it on a historical perspective. http://wp.me/2msZd
I find that it does a disservice to everyone to blatantly leave out details that make our heroes where we cannot relate to them. Give everyone the real story, besides, Americans love a “pulled up by the bootstraps” and “changed their ways” sort of hero!
#55 by Renee on June 28, 2012 - 9:24 am
Great post! I have always said my worst vice is my best virtue. In fact, when I was younger, and in a job interview, I was asked what were my flaws. I answered, “my virtues.” The supervisor threw back her head and laughed out loud and hired me on the spot.
I agree it is so important to make characters real, the Laura Croft super hero becomes boring. We need stories that show how people grow so readers have roadmaps for their struggles. That is what drama has been about since the Greeks.
Cheers to you!
#56 by Yvette Carol on June 28, 2012 - 8:16 pm
Sometimes I’m such an oaf. I’ve read and imbibed this information many times before. But I really needed it spelt out for me the way you’ve done here!! Thanks for the leg-up girlfriend!
#57 by Bridgette Gallagher on July 1, 2012 - 9:10 pm
Hello! I have nominated you for Most Versatile Blogger award. See my post about it here!
#58 by melaniekoraleski on July 13, 2012 - 2:17 pm
I love this post! People’s flaws really are what make them the most interesting. I also tend to see the good in everyone. This has lead me into quite a few predicaments. Oh well, I guess that’s just more writing material, right?
#59 by Barry Hoffman on July 20, 2012 - 10:11 pm
I can’t agree with the author more. There are no perfect people in real life so why do we want to see perfect people in what we read. Flaws help the reader relate to the character. The new versions of a number of comic super heroes show all of them have flaws galore. Batman and Spiderman have flaws. It makes them more relatable. In my Sharma Chronicles series a number of heroic characters have flaws galore. As the series unwinds some of the characters over come SOME of their flaws (never all) while some succomb to their flaws. Characters without flaws doesn’t deal with reality and is just plain boring.
#60 by xxjboundsxx on January 30, 2013 - 2:04 pm
I don’t write Novels, but I write Screenplays. But everything you say still applies. If a character is so perfect they shouldn’t even be a character at all because they’ll never drive a story and plot will never come. My favorite character’s are the one’s who constantly fail, but never give up until they finally see the light and why they fail. I can relate to that. A passive-aggressive character doesn’t do much, although at the beginning of your story they can be that, but a whole story of them being that would be boring.
All Indiana Jones did was fail. He wasn’t a failure, but he failed alot. There is a difference. It took me quite a while of learning how to make character’s human, believable and relateable. It took me being more observant of life, movies and reading Screenplays to get it to turn a light on in my brain
Some people are all talk and no action. Some are are action and give up, but then there are those who never quit, learn, adapt and have a revelation of why they did what they were doing and now they do something different to get results. No matter the story. From Comedies to Action. I want a character to learn and I love learning myself. I lie solving something, so I have my character’s solve something. I have things in my life I don’t see about myself. Good and bad. Needs,etc.. I see that in others and I it should be in every character we write.
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#62 by ladylavinia1932 on September 28, 2016 - 10:16 am
When we create our protagonist, we need to give them flaws and they need to be forgivable flaws. I think this was a HUGE mistake in the Star Wars prequels. The journey of Annakin Skywalker stopped when he became a little-kid-killer.
This comment makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER. The Prequel Trilogy was about how Anakin became a Sith Lord in the first place. Surely, you knew this? Did you think that Anakin had forgivable flaws in the Original Trilogy? Because if you did, I’m astounded.
#63 by Author Kristen Lamb on September 28, 2016 - 10:23 am
You can make him a Sith Lord without making him a little kid killer. All the movies laid end to end are Anakin’s story. How he fell to become Sith then came back to rebuke the darkness in the end. It is why the final scene in Return of the Jedi is Darth (Anakin) doing battle. The entire six movies are supposed to be a redemption story, but no redeeming anyone who slaughters children. It was bad writing and purely for shock.