Sometimes, a character is only as strong as their weakest point, AKA, their character flaws. It sounds strange when put in those words, but think about it: do you like a story more for its plot, or its characters?
Most people would answer “characters.” Plot is definitely important, but in well-written stories even the plot is just a way to push the characters farther and force them to make hard decisions and grow and improve as a person. A lot of the tension in that plot relates to characters, too.
Character flaws, for example, can mess with relationships, keep the journey from going smoothly, and more. Plus it just downright makes your character more relatable and realistic. After all, your readers aren’t perfect, so they’ll appreciate watching an imperfect character accomplish great things despite their flaws!
Long story short, your characters need flaws if you want them to be realistic and well-developed. Some will have more flaws than redeeming qualities, others will be mostly perfect except for a thing or two, and others will fall somewhere in-between.
And, of course, this isn’t just for protagonists—everyone should have a handful of flaws. Like villains, of course. Although that should be an obvious one. But you do want to make sure they’re not just a bundle of flaws and nothing else. Villains can be multi-faceted, too!
But before we get into the list…
Three things to know about character flaws:
These character flaws might also be positive qualities.
A trait might be good in moderation, but a character flaw when taken to the extreme.
Something like confident, for example, can be good. It’s good to be proud of yourself and confident in what you can do. But as confident turns in prideful and prideful turns into arrogant, we can see a good quality become a bad one. Something like helpful is another good example. Your character might be incredibly giving and selfless, but when it’s to a point where they ignore their own happiness, it’s also a flaw.
These character flaws will appear in different levels of extremity.
Someone who gets irritated easily is one thing, but someone who completely loses their temper at something small is much more serious. It’s the same flaw (easily set off), but with much more extreme results/reactions. So you can have multiple characters with this same flaw, but it won’t manifest in all of them the same way.
These character flaws will appear in different situations.
Maybe they’re a notorious cheater when it comes to card games, but they’d never lie to someone they care about. Think about when this flaw shows up for your character, and when it doesn’t.
You probably shouldn’t just Russian Roulette your character’s flaws.
Some minor flaws won’t play a major role in development, so those can be chosen at random. But the big, glaring problems should have a more in-depth relationship to the plot and your character’s overall plot.
After all, the flaws are supposed to get in your character’s way. They’re supposed to keep her from succeeding. And what better way to keep her from succeeding than to be smack dab in the middle of the path to success?
Think of it like “fear of heights” keeping your character from a dream of climbing Mt. Everest. Imagine a “lazy” character suddenly being thrust into a position where they have to work full-time or their family will be without food. Or maybe a “judgmental” character is assigned to work on a 3-month project with the most-hated and most-judged classmate at school.
It makes sense that well-chosen flaws end up with a direct relationship to your plot and/or your character’s overall growth arc. Read up on developing your character’s swoons and wounds to get a better idea of how that all works out.
62 Potential Flaws to give to your Characters (Not All at Once)
With those variances in mind, here are some vices to give your characters. But don’t limit yourself to this list—there are plenty more out there!
- Easily angered
- Holds grudges
And like I said, this is only to get you started! There are plenty more vices and flaws you can give your character. And remember thing to know #1: flaws can also be good qualities. So if you want to expand this list even more, think of a good quality your character has and take it to an extreme level. Voila! Another character flaw. And a complex one, too, that adds a nice juicy layer to your character.
I’ve seen plenty of other posts about other character flaws and traits, so it’s worth looking around at other lists. I’ll probably update this list every now and then to add interesting ones I come across!
A well-balanced character will come alive and struggle along their path just like real people do. It can even flavor their voice and decisions, making your plot more interesting and tense as well.
We’ll get into the “how” of all that in a later post… but for now, start brainstorming which flaws would add some tension to your plot or add potential conflict to character relationships (like a character with a core value of Integrity and their best friend who shoplifts in their free time).
What kinds of flaws do you like giving to your characters? Do you try to weave them directly into the plot?