Character Part 1: Individual & Moral Flaw
Crafting characters in a story is a complex process.
Essentially, you are creating a life – from the ground up.
A person – with a lifetime of experiences, personality, quirks, hopes, dreams, attitudes, and opinions. But most importantly, you are creating a character who thinks and feels.
She is a living, breathing person who never stops reacting to the world around her. She never stops formulating these opinions, never stops having these experiences, these attitudes. Therefore, she is always changing, she is constantly evolving by the very nature of being alive and being active in the world of your story.
There are two types of characters in a story:
The main character
The supporting characters
While the following traits apply to both types of characters, your main character will be our primary focus.
Now, aside from creating a believable person that seems real and authentic, you are creating a character that serves a purpose in your story.
And with limited time to tell your story, you want to be quick and efficient in communicating to your audience who this person is.
This is where the character traits come in – a collection of attributes that every person has. Running deeper than just surface data like name, gender, age, etc.
These traits are:
- Individual flaw
- Moral flaw
- Emphasized cubby
- And all the characters of your story will be connected by a character web.
These traits are universal – every person possesses them to some degree. And they’re not just fun facts or small details. They serve as an active part of the story.
Let’s take a look at the first two traits:
A weakness possessed by a character that affects just the character.
No one else is hurt by this flaw in any direct way. It’s something specifically hurting just the character who has it.
What’s that look like?
An illness like cancer, an addiction like being hooked on meth, or an emotional flaw like guilt.
These things can hurt others, but the direct palpable difficulty is hurting just the main character who has the problem.
A flaw that does affect others.
It has a direct negative impact on the people connected to your character.
What’s that look like?
Racism, sexism, prejudice, criminal activity, infidelity, deception.
These are problems that actively cause difficulty for the people around our main character. You could almost think of this as a “social flaw.”
To achieve a well constructed character, the the individual flaw, and the moral flaw, should be related.
They should smoothly flow together, but still remain separate ideas.
The more they differentiate, but still seem organically connected, – the stronger the characterization.
Like an addiction that causes your character to engage in criminal activities. They are directly related, but still separate ideas.
Keep in mind, these flaws don’t have to be extreme. They should be appropriate for the story that you’re telling.
These flaws play an active part in your story. They set the stage. They give our main character somewhere to go. Some way in which they can grow, change, and evolve.
That leads us to our next trait…