I guess this is a rant more than anything else, but I'm so tired of seeing this, and I would like nothing more than to hear everyone's thoughts and opinions on these matters.
Certain Character Flaws Are Overused Cop-Outs!
The specific ones I'm thinking of are 'snarkiness', 'temper' and 'stubborness'. Every damn hero or heroine I read about describes their character flaws as these three things and I am sick
of it! Can't anyone think of anything else? Especially since these are pretty much codewords, and aren't flaws at all in the way people portray them. By snarkiness, they apparently meant "Witty And Funny, aren't I so great?", by temper the meant "I'm always right all the time and I've no problem saying it even when it's not something you want to hear!" and by stubbornness they meant "No, I'm doing the right thing no matter what, even if I have to martyr myself to save this bus full of children and it would be safer, but more cowardly, to think of myself!"
They are total cop-outs!
Snarkiness occasionally the character will actually piss the wrong person off with (more on snark later), but temper and stubbornness especially almost never
gets them into the kind of trouble that would make us think less of the character for it, and it's actually not the flaw's fault, it's the bad characterization and the fact that the authors are apparently operating on a different definition of those words than the real world. In fact, they usually aren't stubborn on anything but 'doing the right thing!' or 'sticking by their friends!' or 'doing things something by themselves!' The temper will pop up but it is almost always on someone who deserves it, never on someone who doesn't, and they are almost never called out on it properly or reliably.
Other types of serious cop-out flaws
are superficial things like fearing heights, or seasickness or being handicapped. It's like Kryptonite for superman. There's no character growth into a different person that can happen through this weakness, because it has nothing to do with the person's actual character, and in a lot of cases it's nothing they can even do anything about. It's basically there so the author can say "See? She's only PRACTICALLY invincible!". Overcoming this type of 'flaw' rather than making them a better person, morally, just makes them more capable or more powerful. This stuff isn't even flaws, I just call them handicaps to balance out powerful characters. You might as well just think of them as stats or something, it has nothing to do with personality.
Make properly flawed characters, please, dear God!
What do I mean by properly flawed characters? I mean, have multiple
instances where this character flaw (as in it is actually something in their personality or philosophy or character!) alienates them from other people through their own actions, it ebing completely their fault, to the point that they notice, or other people point it out to them. Have it show up consistently
, not just whenever it's convenient, or when it will do the least harm. Have it actually affect their thinking and the way other characters interact with them. Have it leave the character thinking things like "Damn it, why
did I do that? Why
was a I such a bitch to the one person who still listens to my rants and makes me feel better? Why did I completely insult them in a way that was by no means justifiable or right and was in fact a horrible, jerkish thing to do, just because I was in a bad mood?"
And if it's a flaw, don't show it being a good thing or helping them out or working in their favor. This is why being snarky is just a crappy flaw, indeed it's not a flaw at all. We like
snarkiness, we think of it as funny, so calling snarkiness a flaw is...well, just incorrect, and a total lie. When characters actually do get in trouble for being snarky, we usually see
it as unjustified and unfair, we feel sympathetic not think, "Well, there you go, you deserved it." It completely undermines the point, which is the flaw being something to overcome, that gets in their way as an obstacle to make them grow. Working with snarkiness again, when a character ever does portrayed as being genuinely flawed for being snarky, the snark isn't the flaw, it's the side affect of the flaw, which is usually a disrespectful attitude, being a jerkass, or extreme cynicism/pessimism.
I won't say a flaw can't ever
be shown as being good or okay or not called out on to work as a proper flaw, but you should operate as if it is
a rule if you really want to be certain a flaw will be perceived as an actual flaw
. because apparently people have trouble with this.
Now you might be thinking, but if I do all this, my character is going to be lame and no one will like or want to read about them! They won't be. I promise. And actually there are is one very simple way to make sure they will still be liked despite this deep character flaw: give them good intentions and a willingness to change. Seriously, I can almost guarantee that such a character, with properly written
flaws, when given said trait, will turn out interesting and likable. We will root for them, no matter how flawed they are, because we like to think we can overcome our deep flaws to. We want
to see them become that better person.
Just Some Underused Flaws
- Excessive Boastfulness
- Excessive Lying
- Being overly emotional or dramatic
SPATULA, Supporters of Page Altering To Urgently Lead to Amelioration (supports not going through TRS for tweaks and minor improvements.)