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Make ‘em Perfect – Give ‘em Flaws!

Copyright: Cheryl Wright - All Rights Reserved


How often have you heard someone say "he’s a perfect hero"?

If you want full-bodied 3D characters in your stories, you need to make them believable to readers. To achieve perfection in characters, any characters – minor or major – you have to give them flaws.


I can hear you now: "But I want my characters to be perfect!"

Let me ask a simple question – how many people do you know who are perfect? People with no problems, phobias or annoying habits, no relatives they’d rather disown, or skeletons in the closet. Someone whose life is, well, perfect?

Nope, me neither.

Think about some of the flaws (or problems) your friends or relatives might possess. We’ll start with a few phobias: fear of spiders, snakes, heights, cars, water, people or crowds.

Then there are the ‘mania’ group of problems: obsessive compulsive, bipolar, panic disorder, schizophrenia.

Now let’s add a few personality flaws: snorting while laughing, constant clearing of throat, neck cracking.

Of course there’s also hyperactivity and its related problems.

And these are just a few!

Think for a moment about some of your favourite television shows. How many of the main protagonists are perfect? Not many, in my opinion.

For instance, in "Monk" the main character – Detective Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub) – would drive any normal person crazy. He suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder and a number of phobias, which all stem back to the murder of his wife, Trudy. Monk is afraid of absolutely everything there is to be anxious about, and won’t go anywhere without his nurse. Heights, germs, crowds, milk, and driving all terrify him. You name it; he’s frightened to do it.

On the upside, Monk has a photographic memory and is brilliant when it comes to catching the bad guys. Despite the fact he’s on psychiatric leave from the police force, he’s a perfect character, er, totally flawed character!

Now take good ol’ "Columbo" from many years ago. He was a damned annoying character; dirty, scruffy, and in some ways inconsistent. But he always got his man, er, woman, er – he definitely got the bad guy every single time!

Let’s now look at long-running television series NYPD Blue: Detective Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) is a great cop. But he’s got issues – his son is estranged, when it comes to his personal life he’s got no confidence in himself, plus he’s bald and overweight. But we all love him! Why? Because he’s the underdog; we’re all egging him on, we absolutely want him to achieve whatever it is he aims for.

In that same show, you will also find Detective John Clark Jnr. (Mark-Paul Gosselaar). His main issue is the fact that he’s walking in his famous police detective father’s footsteps. Everything he does has to be as perfect and brilliant as his father would do. John Jnr. wants to live up to his father’s achievements, but in endeavouring to achieve that almost impossible task, he has many self-doubts.

Take a long hard look at your characters. Do they reek of perfection? Ack! Give them a dressing down, some bad qualities, and a few ghastly habits that leave something to be desired.

Make your characters perfectly….flawed!


About the author: Cheryl Wright is an award-winning Australian author and freelance journalist. In addition to an array of other projects, she is the owner of the Writer2Writer.com website and the Writer to Writer monthly ezine for writers.  Her publications include novels, non-fiction books, short stories, and articles. To keep up to date with her publications and new releases, visit Cheryl’s website www.cheryl-wright.com


         Last updated: August 04, 2008