Perfect characters are not only boring but also unreliable and unrealistic. It’s hard as a reader to acknowledge that not only did the author just completely disregard certain aspects, but an editing team, agent, everyone and their mother read this prior to publication and just checked off the box as done and allowed it in the world. Writing is hard AF but that doesn’t mean you leave your characters bare ass without flaws or bad habits. Do you personally know someone without flaw or habits? Not a single one? (and if you say, ‘yeah, of course, the love of my life – my better half!’ I’m going to throat punch you). When you spend so much time on perfecting a character, you have to remember that giving them flaws help shape them. Pulling from a few different lists (the sources are located at the bottom of the page), there are a few to consider when building your character.
Chronic apologizers: I personally know a few people who do this and it’s not just the words that come with this flaw. On some occasions, it’s almost happening during an anxiety attack. There are tears, one can physically back away or throw their body forward, etc. It’s an issue of confidence and, for some cases, something much deeper.
Good old-fashioned absentminded: a distracted mind can be interesting, especially if the root of this distraction allows the character to experience dangerous scenarios or what’s distracting them is even more sinister.
Unpredictable: I put this in here because often times I read stories where the character is so predictable, I am excited when another character is introduced so I can take a break from the other character. You can make one so predictable one moment she’s the loner, naive blue-eyed blonde of the new town wishing for a man to sweep her off her feet, then she has a machine gun. Your character is human – allow them the space to be uncontrollable.
Chewing the inside of their mouth: This is a nervous tick and can do more justice to the character than ‘sweaty palms’. I don’t think I have ever gotten ‘sweaty palms’ from being nervous since I was a teenager, and I’m pretty sure that was due to body changes. Alternatively, there’s always chewing on items (pens are too common), biting the lip (but not sensually like in Fifty Shades of Grey – you don’t want to turn on some weirdo millionaire), or grinding teeth (which can also represent holding back anger).
Gossiping: It’s a guilty pleasure sometimes that can create some pretty sour situations. Don’t merely have a protagonist agree; make them a part of the gossip and perhaps the aftermath of the gossip.
This list can go on forever and I don’t think small quirks to major addiction problems are worth leaving out. Here are some more that range from physical to psychological habits/flaws:
- Overuses the snooze button
- Will never admit their wrong, unless internally
- Corrects people constantly
- Pops pills
- Suffers from bulimia
- Sensitive – easily offended and takes it to heart
- Chain smoker
- A terrible listener – makes it difficult to connect with other characters
- Absolutely lazy and relies on others for everything – driving them around, paying the bill, offering nothing but their company in return
- Spoiled and cruel
- Addicted to television – can quote different shows and movies, word for word, uses shows and movies for metaphors
- Addicted to sleeping pills
- Insomnia – now that’s an interesting character
- Excessive talker
- A worrier – in the most extreme ways (and maybe even a doomsday thinker)
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Falls in love easily and with everyone, feeling a deep connection that doesn’t exist
- Addicted to risk-taking, from sports and leisure to unprotected sex and drugs
- Facial tics, cracks knuckles, hangs mouth open when not talking, flutters eyes open and shut frequently
- Obsessed with religion or complete atheist
You are not trying to re-invent the wheel but you are inventing a new character so make up your own list or check out the ones above and the sources (which have so much more) below. And, as always, share some flaws in the comment section or ones you are plain sick of as a reader!
Read more about character flaws: