Sunday, May 18, 2014

Where do you put Character Flaws?

-----Original Message -----
Characters have to have flaws, but sometimes it's a bit hard to add those flaws in.
 -- Concerned About Characters
First of all...
What is a character Flaw?

Well, a character's Flaw is a crack in their personality and/or talent. Something that both helps them AND harms them. Kind of the way true artists (and brilliant nerds) tend to also be serious flakes, and really socially awkward. 'K?

Now then...

Where do you Put a Character's Flaws?

A character's greatest strength should appear in the first scene that character occupies. The character's Flaw makes its first appearance at the end of that scene -- but only a hint of it.

Scene One: If the opening scene features the main character, I show that character In Action showing off their greatest strength. To close that scene I show a small portion of that same strength's crippling weakness, but without exposing that it's a weakness.
In The Hobbit:
 -- Bilbo Baggins's greatest Flaw is that's he's 'nice' and 'polite'. In other words, he has Good Character. Not something one would generally think of as being a weakness.

Scene Two: As the story progresses that strength (and their dependence on it,) devolves openly into a crippling weakness that nearly destroys what's most important to them. 
In The Hobbit:
 -- Bilbo Baggins's  Good Character is what allows Gandalf and the dwarves to take advantage of his home to get a free dinner -- for 14 people!-- and take advantage of his person. He is quite literally managed into signing a contract to go on an Adventure he doesn't want, and in fact something Hobbits do not do. 
Later in the story, Bilbo Baggins's Flaw of Good Character nearly gets him eaten by trolls because he's too polite to attack them.

Scene Three: At the center of the story The Worst Thing That Could Possibly Happen occurs. The character becomes utterly helpless and sunk deep in depression. That weakness they'd originally depended on as their strength is what they must overcome to find a new source of strength to proceed.
In The Hobbit:
 -- At the center of the story, Bilbo falls into a deep, dark pit. Faced with Gollum, who tells Bilbo point-blank that he intends to Eat Bilbo, Bilbo once again is too polite. He refuses to see Gollum as a the deadly threat he is, and bargains with Gollum, fully expecting the creature to keep his word and let him go should Bilbo win their little contest.
Once Gollum reveals that he has no intention of honoring his word, what saves Bilbo isn't Bilbo's sword, but a single moment of Bad Character; Theft. Bilbo keeps a gold ring that he knows belongs to Gollum. This one act of Bad Character ends up being his salvation against Gollum because the ring is Magical.

Scene Four: Validation; when the Flaw proves to be an actual strength.
In The Hobbit:
-- The ring that Bilbo stole allows Bilbo to save the dwarves when they're attacked by Spiders, then again when the dwarves are captured by the wood elves, then Bilbo himself when he is faced with a fire-breathing dragon, and so on and so forth... 
By the end of the story, Bilbo has finally learned that Not being Polite has it's uses too, such as when demanding back all his belonging that had been stolen from his home during his long absence -- and actually getting them all back because everyone else is too polite to refuse him

How to use this in Writing.

Example: A Romance Story
The Main Character's (MC) greatest strength is he's The Perfect Gentleman; he knows exactly the right thing to do and say no matter the circumstances. He's honest, trustworthy, and kind.

The flaw that comes with this talent is that Everyone Knows exactly what kind of man he is. (It's not like he can hide it.)
Scene One: MC interacts with 3 females; an office lady, his childhood playmate, and the girl he actually likes. To each of them he is The Perfect Gentleman; he says and does exactly the right thing each time.

Scene Two: He becomes the guy to go to when their heart is broken because he always knows what to say to make a someone feel better. The guys envy him, and the girls adore him.
During this time, he begins to court the girl he likes: flowers, gifts, dates... At the end of the scene, he finally gets up the courage to confess his love. She smiles and Refuses to take him seriously. Why? Because he ALWAYS says and does the right thing, no matter who they are; he treats Every girl the same way. She doesn't feel special; she doesn't feel loved.

Scene Three: He continues to pursue her, and confess his feelings, but the more he talks, the less she believes him. Even worse, none of the girls believe that he's even capable of having feelings for only one girl -- after all, he's the Perfect Gentleman to everyone he meets.

Scene Four: Deep in despair, he sees her one more time only this time he's unprepared and a total mess; his appearance has gone to crap from depression, he hasn't eaten, he hasn't slept. He weeps angry tears while shouting in anger that no one believes him. In short: He's not a gentleman at all. This time she believes him because for the first time she can see the man hiding under the mask of 'Perfect Gentleman'.

The End


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