Nobody is perfect and the world is harsh. That is the reality. When you read about these problems you can relate and almost believe this world of fiction is true. Adding in character weaknesses is vital to both character development and plot conflict. But there is always a balance as to how much, when, and where you use them.

 

Flaws

 

Flaws are an internal problem. Flaws include being prideful, lacking confidence, or having irrational fears. Flaws are internal challenges which a character attempts to overcome.

 

Not all flaws are attractive to read about. If we find a character who is whiny, most readers will dislike that about them as it will fill a lot of the dialogue with pessimism. We want to read about a character’s flaws who overcomes those flaws or a completes challenge despite their difficulties. Unless you are reading horror, we read to give ourselves hope for our own trials.

 

Handicaps

 

Handicaps are similar to flaws but have two distinct differences. Handicaps are external challenges which apply to a character. Handicaps are not like flaws, where you can overcome them, but they require the character to move on with their life despite them. Characters have to deal with the handicaps. Handicaps cannot be fixed like a missing limb, a birth defect, or being sensitive to sunlight because of your race.

 

Handicaps are not as fun to read about since you cannot resolve them, but they add in needed conflict. Life isn’t easy or even fair sometimes. While you have to be careful how much you include, handicaps do add in credibility to a world and interest to a plotline.

 

Using a Weakness

 

As an author, you do need to include character weaknesses but must take care of which you use. Don’t include weaknesses unless they actually help you write the story. Too many weaknesses will make the character seem unreal when they still find a way to win. That is helpful for when you write about legendary people, but they become less relatable at that point. Everybody has weaknesses, but they have strengths too.

 

Weaknesses should always exacerbate the conflict within a story making things more difficult at some point. There is no interest in writing about a blind man if it hasn’t affected him in any way other than simple character description. People have more than one weakness but if writing it in doesn’t affect the story or give you an idea into the character’s personality why include it? Good villains will always take advantage of these flaws and handicaps and you should too.

 

Character weaknesses allow for growth and give them a character arc. People change as they live their life and it isn’t always forward. Sometimes it is sideways as we discover new paths to walk. Whichever direction used, this character dynamic adds in credibility and gives us examples for how we might choose to live our own lives. I am a strong believer that readers find more of themselves reading books and finding characters to emulate or learn from. Sometimes people just want to see what they feel put down in words. The world feels less scary then.

 

Photo by Lance Grandahl

 

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