Aristotle said there is no hero without a tragic flaw. Indeed, flaws humanize characters and make them believable which in turn makes the reader identify with them and their challenges in a story. A character that is too ideal is unbelievable to the reader, and even secretly loathed. The flaws give something to the character to struggle with either internally or externally. They are part of the setting which the character has to journey in the story.
But what is a flaw?
This could be described as a self-focused trait in character, that does not contribute to the well-being of others but instead complicates or even damages relationships with other characters, and in doing so hinders the ability of a character to achieve his/her goals in a story.
There are different levels of flaws that a character can have:
· Major flaws
These are flaws that distort the views of the character and of the world around him. These flaws arise from painful and emotionally sensitive experiences. This would have come about by being misused and being taken advantage of by forces that are similar to the ones facing him in the story. Major flaws have shaped the character’s life and judgment in present actions. Jason Bourne’s conversion into an amnesiac assassin made him a deeply paranoid character with a preference for violent reactions to many situations.
· Lesser flaws
These are flaws that are part of the ‘normal’ character, for example, impatience or a hot-temper. These flaws do not drastically alter a character but they may influence how he deals with ordinary people and situations, for example, a hot-tempered general may throw men into battle without relying on good hindsight.
· Fatal flaw
This is a flaw that the character will be blind to, often an inner weakness, which keeps the character from succeeding in his goals. Sherlock Holmes, for example, is fond of self-aggrandizement believing that only he can discern some tips from crime scenes, which would be done faster if he trained and relied on fellow investigators to help him.
· Tragic flaw
This is a flaw which the character can never throw off completely. The character refuses to change in the belief that such a change would bring in hurt or loss. The classic example is Satan who was unable to overcome his jealousy and loathing for Archangel Michael, leading to his downfall and the war between good and evil.
Creating flaws in characters allow your readers to identify with them and their actions. The reader feels part of the story and engaged in it.