At the same time, I don’t like reading about people who always make the wrong choices. It’s a tough balance for writers. We must make our characters human. That means they must have flaws. And, those flaws must be different from one character to the next. If they all have the same flaws, well, that just wouldn’t work.
When writing about your character and developing your character bio, think about these questions:
- What would my character’s friends say are his/her strengths. The things she/he does best.
- What would my character’s friends say that drive them crazy about my character?
In looking at those questions, you can begin to create a well-rounded character. The choices they make are not simply designed to push the plot along, but also designed to fit that particular character. For example if you have a decisive, aggressive character, you cannot allow that character face a difficult decision and not take action. You can’t put off the action because it’s better for the plot. It’s not likely the character would do that. My editor is great at flagging these things. I sometimes get a note that says, “I can’t see Jenna doing this?” or “This doesn’t sound like something Jenna would say.” Oops. I got caught.
So what are some personality flaws you might want to incorporate in your characters?
- The character is messy. Or the reverse, the character is a neatnik. Either way, you must be consistent. A neatnik character might pick up clothing tossed around at a crime scene even though that character knows they shouldn’t touch anything. Just couldn’t help themselves and then they had to explain that behavior to the police.
- The character is always hungry. This character is constantly thinking about food and never misses a meal. Such a character is fun because right in the middle of a chase scene, he or she might think, “I’m starving.” or “If I don’t get away soon, I’ll miss lunch.”
- The character is lazy or the character is an exercise nut. My character is not lazy, but she has to be forced to exercise. Her best friend, however, is an exercise nut, and he’s always after her to go for a run.
- The character runs off at the mouth. Talks all the time and that gets her/him in trouble. This requires a lot of skill as a writer. The dialogue flows but endlessly. You must be careful not to bore the reader. Use sparingly but show it enough to remind the reader of this flaw.
- The character is a scaredy cat. This is a fun trait for an amateur sleuth. They get in bad scrapes and want to be anywhere else. Or they fuss and complain before ever embarking on the “scrape.”
- The character makes bad jokes. This is another one that’s hard to write, at least for me. But, remember, if you have one character doing this, you can’t give the trait to others.
- The character forgets people’s names.
- The character is overly polite or overly impolite.
- The character is afraid of dogs.
- The character is always running late.
These are just a few flaws you can incorporate in your characters. There are many more.
Take a look at this book trailer. Janie and Marlene in The Clock Strikes Midnight are fraught with flaws.