CHARACTER ARCS: WHAT THEY ARE AND HOW TO MAP THEM TO A PLOT. PART 3.
In real life, everyone has flaws, both physical and emotional. The characters in your book need to also have those sorts of flaws. You will decide some of the flaws upon when you create your characters before you start writing (or as you’re writing the very first draft). Those flaws will most likely have grown out of their past. Some will grow from their personality and how they react to the world around them.
Even heroes need flaws. No one is perfect, and a perfect hero isn’t believable. That’s one of the reasons the reluctant hero trope is so popular. It makes sense to people who are just living their lives, that there could also be someone else just living their life that has been reluctantly drawn into an adventure that will challenge everything they knew about themselves, or thought about themselves.
TYPES OF CHARACTER FLAWS
There are probably as many types of character flaws as there are stars in the sky but, like most things, there are a few that come up time and time again. These repeaters are both believable and sympathetic, and they work equally as well for heroes as villains.
The ‘seven deadly sins’ are always a good place to begin. Pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth will each offer a humanising factor to an otherwise flat character. None of these ‘sins’ make the character unlikeable unless they allow the flaw to take over the way they live their life and the way they treat others. That extreme behaviour is how they become villains.
Some examples of how these flaws could impact on a character’s behaviour in a story:
Rebecca has always been proud of the fact that she’s the best salesperson in the shoe shop. Then Aaron is hired, and his enthusiasm soon wins customers over. Rebecca’s best monthly sales title is threatened.
Rebecca distrusts Aaron on principle and refuses to help him when he asks for assistance finding the right shoe for a sick little boy.
As Rebecca’s anger at Aaron’s success builds, her unfair treatment of him becomes noticeable to customers. She also feels bad about not helping the little boy and turns the anger at herself onto Aaron.
I’m sure you can work out the rest with your own plots. I’ve linked all three of my examples to the same story and the same character, but you don’t have to do that. It’s your story, your characters: explore and have fun.
This is the last part of my discussion on character development. Next time, we'll look at mapping character development to plot arc to create a compatible growth of character and plot.