Writing damaged characters

Damaged characters like Loki from the Avengers, Anakin from Star Wars, and Snape from Harry Potter. I’ve noticed lots of readers/viewers have sympathy for these characters and they even grow to love them. As writers, these are the reactions we want from readers. But be careful! if done wrong, these characters can put people off. The readers become more annoyed than sympathetic.

Broken characters can be villains, secondary characters, or even the hero. These characters are not only fun to read about, but their also fun to write about! Heres how.

  • Backstory. The backstory will be the most important part of this character. Were they abandoned? Mistreated? Does his father love his brother more than him? This is going to be the foundation of your character. What hurt them? Remember to make their backstory interesting, this grabs the reader right away.
  • What do they want? Every character no matter how small has to have a goal. You absolutely cannot overlook this step. Do they want acceptance? Love? Power? Revenge? Justice? Your character’s goal will be what drives them, what keeps them going.
  • They don’t have to be dark and depressing. They don’t have to wear black and always say depressing stuff. Their hurt doesn’t always have to show through. Examples: Anakin Skywalker and Harry Potter.


Good, now that you have the basics down we can move on to the more personal stuff. Here’s a list of traits and weaknesses for your broken character. Pick the ones that you think works best with your character and story.

  • Easily manipulated
  • Has trouble trusting
  • Gentle
  • Serious
  • Humorous
  • Depressed
  • Gullible
  • Socially awkward
  • Power crazy
  • Cares about no one but themselves

Other things to consider.

  • Buddies: There is nothing wrong with giving your damaged character a buddy. Think about it, Count Olaf had his acting troupe, Harry had Ron and Hermione, Anakin had Padmé, Obi-wan, Ahsoka, a few clone troopers and probably a lot more that weren’t mentioned. But loners can be entertaining too, like Loki;)
  • Arc: Your character’s arc is the inward journey they take throughout the story. They can have a positive or negative outcome.
  • Behavior: How your character acts depends on their backstory. Your character will learn from their past either to stand and fight or to cower and hide or to speak out or stay quiet, They may be known to burst out in rage, it all depends on their history.
  • Arrogance: This is something you have to be careful of for many different characters. But in this case, it’s not about them thinking they’re better than everyone else, it’s more of thinking they deserve more because of their past.

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