In stories Imperfection is actually the new perfection. The
smudge of imperfection in characters adds an unexplainable and undefinable
appeal to the characters. Most popular characters are loaded with imperfection.
I personally feel that’s where their attraction lies.
Characters in books
mirror real life people. We all have our own individual idiosyncrasies, flaws,
shortcomings and insecurities. So it’s nothing unusual if characters reflects
these traits. Actually this quality (imperfection) lends reality to a
character. Readers find it easy to identify with someone who is imperfect, who
makes mistakes and is swayed by emotions
and prone to mood swings; they feel a sense of similarity when they encounter
Characters who remain calm and unruffled and who never makes mistakes
have a falseness attached to them. Though we look upto perfect people, they give
us a temporary sense of insecurity. We feel small in front of them. We
may even secretly and subtly resent their perfection and larger than life
image. But it’s the imperfect characters we bond with. In their presence we
revel in our own imperfections.
Have you all noticed that more and more
often our protagonists lead imperfect lives. As the story unfolds, these
imperfect characters leading imperfect lives try to resolve the conflict by
tackling their own personal imperfections first.
Aristotle called it
Hamartia, which was seen as a character flaw. This character flaw can be a
limitation, a problem, a phobia, or a deficiency present in a character who is
otherwise quite normal. The character flaw may be a violent temper that may
turn out to affect the character’s actions, abilities, or interactions with
other characters. Sometimes it can be a simple personality defect which only
has effect on the character’s motives and social interaction and nothing else.
Flaws or imperfection add
depth and humanity to the characters in a narrative. For eg. the mayor with a
penchant for gambling, the hero with claustrophobia, the heroine with an
alcohol problem, the girl suffering from kleptomania. One of the most famous
example is ‘ Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.’
Character flaws can be slotted into
make the characters memorable in readers minds, these
give the character individuality, but other than that do not affect the story
in any way. They can be a scar, an accent, biting the lower lip, twirling the
moustache, a girl constantly flinging her hair back. A protagonist can have
several minor flaws, each having no effect on the plot.
are noticeable and important. They affect the individual
physically, mentally, emotionally, morally or spiritually. Major flaws are not
necessarily negative: they can be rigid religious beliefs or a strict adherence
to a certain lifestyle. Major flaws like: greed, blindness, deafness, lust,
often hamper and restrict the character in one way or the other. The major flaw
is important for the character’s personal development and the story. Heroes and
heroines must overcome their own major flaws either partially or completely,
either temporarily or permanently, at some point in the story, very often by
the climax, by sheer determination or skill to be able to solve the larger
problem at hand. For a villain his major flaw is frequently the cause of his
downfall. The protagonist’s major flaw defines the core problem, the entire
journey to remedy this problem forms the firm backbone of the story, sometimes
prodding the plot forward.
The last flaw is the Tragic Flaw
, it’s the cause of the
character’s downfall and eventual death. Tragic Flaw arises out of the
character’s misplaced trust in another character, an excessive amount of
curiousity that sucks him into problems, pride that plunges him into a world of
loneliness. The fall that often arises out of the Tragic Flaw occurs at the
beginning of a story.
like perfect characters? Or imperfection is the new perfection for you? What
kind of character flaws do your characters have? Do you consciously give your
characters imperfect traits?