A Flawed Character is the Key to a Flawless Plot


Let’s face it, our characters are our babies. We birth them. We raise them. We sometimes even instill them with a few of our ticks and personality traits. That’s why it’s perfectly natural for us to want them to go out in the world and do nothing but succeed, just as we would with our own real children. But it’s this very want that is the downfall of countless potentially great plots. I’ve worked with so many writers who suffer from a problem I call “Overprotective Writer Syndrome.” It’s when you’re incapable of giving your character flaws and conflicts because you don’t want to “hurt” them. It when you want nothing but good things for your character…to the detriment of your story.
Here’s the cold hard truth, fellow “parents.” A flawed hero is essential to a good plot and good character development. You might even go as far as to say it’s the key to everything: strong character arc, fast pacing, effective conflict, and of course, reader engagement. No one wants to read about a perfect character, someone who doesn’t make mistakes and has all their s&%t figured out. Why? Because it’s BORING. Where does this person have to go?  Why do we care about their journey? Why would we root for them? And most importantly, how are they like us?
We, as readers, like to read about flawed characters because we are ALL flawed. We are all searching for little ways to improve our lives and our experiences on this earth. Whether it’s becoming more patient, controlling our temper, finding more motivation, learning to forgive, practicing letting go, taking better care of our body. These are all every day problems we all face and therefore your character needs to face one too. A flawed character is a real character is a relatable character. How much more satisfying of an ending is it when the guy gets the girl and improves himself? How much better of a story is it when the girl saves the world and finds some self truth along the way? Without flaws, there is no emotional arc. Without an emotional arc, there is no emotion. And without emotion, there is no story.
So go ahead, flaw up that character. Mess ‘em up good. Make them imperfect. Give them somewhere to go on this journey and I guarantee you’ll have much more people wanting to tag along.
Want to learn about all things character? Check out my online course on Crafting Dynamic Characters 


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  Comments: 2

  1. Hi Jessica,

    What is a character flaw of Sherlock Holmes? How he “improves himself” by the end of each story? What is his emotional arc? What self truth he find along the way?

    Sherlock Holmes seems to be very popular and memorable Hero, but doesn’t follow “emotional arc” concept.

    I’ve bought your STC book and going through chapter on Hero. Please help me to combat my scepticism.

    • Hello! That is a very interesting question. There are times when we see Sherlock struggle with his emotions towards his brother Mycroft, or in the platonic way he admires Irene Adler in the original books. One could say his relationship with Watson develops from acquaintance to close friend.

      Thank you for buying STC! I hope it helps you with your writing.

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