Using Enneagrams to map out your character arcs will create realistically flawed characters and make their transformations feel real.
Tag: character flaw
The character lie fights back
You’ve just challenged your character lie, now you need to determine how the lie fights back. Your character’s response depends on the plot structure/hero type. The number of possibilities varies by opinion, but I’ll cover the three most common.
The reluctant hero
The reluctant hero takes many forms, but the unifying feature is the need to be forced into action. As a result, his first instinct is to retreat. He didn’t want to be there anyway, so at the first sign of trouble, he gives up. This does not mean your hero is weak. Katniss qualifies as a reluctant hero. When she finds Peeta in the river mud, she retreats into the cave. For a while, this allows a break in the action and a chance for Peeta and Katniss to develop their relationship. But the games cannot be ignored, and eventually, Katniss is forced back into action.
The One or Hero’s Journey
In the classic hero’s journey, the first plot point is the moment when the character first learns that he cannot ignore the quest the Fates have chosen for him. Luke returns to find the Empire has destroyed his farm and murdered his aunt and uncle. In the hero’s journey, the hero will respond to the first plot pinch by turning to the mentor for help. Luke turns to Obi-Wan. As the hero begins his training, he will become reliant on the mentor further strengthening the false belief that he is not good enough.
The stubborn hero
The stubborn hero will either misinterpret new info or disregard it. Why? Stubborn heroes have reached their lies through life experience. Revenge is a common example. Heroes with revenge goals are not ready to give up their anger. Just having someone tell them revenge won’t make them happy is not going to have much effect.
Another good example of the stubborn hero is Joy from Inside Out. (I know I’m obsessed with this movie, but the examples are so clear.)
Joy’s lie is based on her personal experience. Consider, when a young child is upset, usually making her laugh is enough to distract her from whatever her disappointment was. This experience has taught Joy that happiness can solve any of Riley’s problems. Now that Riley is growing up, she’s becoming more emotionally complex. Joy’s solution no longer works.
Stubborn heroes aren’t stupid.
When you give your character his lie, make sure it is a logical conclusion to his backstory. Even if it isn’t the choice you would make, make sure the reader can follow the process the character used to reach his conclusion. The lie must be the result of a logical progression.
Your characters false assumptions are still ruling their actions.
Make sure you keep your character’s faults alive and well. One challenge isn’t enough to erase a lifetime of experience. The journey has only just begun.
Enjoy this article? Get the book:
Letting characters fail The basis of a character arc is change. By letting characters fail, you will force them to move forward in their arc. If they never lose, they will never learn. Creating Character Arcs This is from the Pixar’s Inside Out. If you haven’t […]
Nobody’s perfect, but your character flaws can be
Character flaws are the elements that add realism. It breathes life into the people in your story. Without a flaw, your character will seem too perfect and perfection is boring. Don’t let this happen to your story.
Why are flaws important?
This comes back to agency. Readers like characters who cause things to happen in their story. If your character is perfect, you must find an outside force to bring the conflict to her. This will turn your character into a victim. While this may work for some plot points, constantly having a character as the victim will annoy your readers. Characters must do things.
Checklist for a perfect flaw
Make sure you can answer these questions
What is your character’s flaw?
There are hundreds of possibilities. If you are looking for a place to start try the Negative Trait Thesaurus.
What happened in his past to cause this belief?
Backstory is critical to character development. (Just don’t dump it all in the first chapter.) Make sure your backstory caused the flaw.
This belief is reasonable to him because?
Character flaws are based on mistaken views. This means that whatever lie your character believes, he must think it is the logical outcome of his past experiences. in other words, he must think his response is the right one. If your character is out for revenge, he must believe that punishing those responsible is the right choice.
How is this flaw reflected in the villain/antagonist?
While this is optional, it does make the story feel cleaner and will keep the protagonist and the antagonist in balance. It will also allow your villain to more easily exploit your character’s flaw.
How does the character’s flaw affect his actions/the storyline?
Your character must be affected by her flaw. You can’t say your character is selfish and short-sighted and then when it matters, she suddenly has the wisdom of the Buddha. Her flaw needs to guide her actions and cause problems. If her flaw doesn’t affect her, then she really doesn’t have a flaw.
Will the character overcome her flaw? if so, how?
In many story arc templates, the character’s arc is a critical component of the ultimate solution. Without the character’s personal journey, the main conflict cannot be overcome. But this is not always necessary. Your character could also embrace her flaw and learn to use it as an advantage.
Everyone has flaws. Give your character a great one
Flaws give your characters depth and dimension. They make them more interesting and more relatable. Everyone loves an underdog, give your character a great flaw and your readers will cheer.
Enjoy this article? Let The Manuscript Shredder help with your next book
Order your copy of Your Novel, This Month today
Books mentioned in this article (affiliate links)