Every writer will tell you, the most important thing you need to know about your character(s) is their goal and motivation. I too have said that a few times here on my blog, but as I start work on my new project, I’m realizing goal and motivation (as important as it is) may not be the most important aspect of your character.
What they want and why is clearly very important.
But I think the most important aspect of a character is their flaws. I’m not talking just physical flaws, but personality flaws. Negative character traits. Why do I think this overrules goals and motivation? It makes your characters human. It adds a sense of realism to your characters that people can really relate to and learn from. We all have read a book with one of those characters who are practaclally perfect in everyway. They’re the kind of characters that just make you sick. They have no negative traits or their negative traits are not relevant to the story. They don’t affect the character or the story.
Let’s use Bilbo from the Hobbit for an example. Bilbo is stubborn and set in his lazy ways. Notice how this isn’t an awfully bad trait, but it affects both him and the story in many ways. Negitive traits don’t always have to be major flaws, just as long as it affects the characters and the story.
Negative flaws also adds interest! Take my protagonist, for example, his selfishness is a major roadblock for the survival of my other characters and his friendships. That is his arc. Negative character traits are essential for the character’s personal growth. I personally look forward to watching the character arcs when reading, so to me they are very important becase I find them entertaining.
Let’s use Finn from Star Wars as an example. In the Last Jedi we see Finn struggle with loyalty. It wasn’t until he witnessed first hand why the resistance needed to win the war, that he over came that. That is Finn’s arc. I always found his arc in TLJ very intriguing. especially since I did not like Finn at all at first.
So how do we instill impactful negative traits into our characters? Start by picturing your characters and their situation. By now you should already know how you want your characters to behave, so all you need to do is decide which negative trait will stand in the way of their end goal. I want to use my protagonist as an example. I already know he has a hard time trusting people which is already a roadblock, so I ask myself how can I make that worse? I can give him loyalty issues as well, but way stop there? Why not also give him anxiety, or maybe he only looks out for number one. Maybe he has anger issues. Maybe I have a character who is really polite and propper. They could have traits such a an exaggerated sence of self worth or vainity. The possibilitys are endless. And I would encourage you to dig deep and use more than one trait.
Negative Character Traits:
- Short tempered
These are just a few examples and there are plenty of other resources out there. I hope this helped you!
Thanks a bunch!