Character Problems

Forums Fiction Characters Character Problems

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    Thomas (CrØss_Bl₳de)

    How do you all choose your character’s main problem (the one that needs fixing)?

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    Princess Foo

    @thewirelessblade There are four ways I can think of off the top of my head to do this.

    1. Just getting to know the character. Every believable human has flaws. As you get to know them you get a feeling of what they are like. You explore the different directions of their personality, how they talk, what attitude they have towards the events of the world. It will probably start as a nugget. For me I get snippets of dialogue I think really fits their character, even if I don’t know exactly what their character is yet, and from there I work outward.

    2. Make their strengths their weakness. Everything taken too far is a weakness. Tenacity can become stubbornness. Easy-goingness becomes having no backbone. A strong sense of justice can lead to an overly rigid worldview with no sense of nuance. The fast talker struggles to tell the truth even about small things because it is easier to lie.

    3. Know what your theme is. This one only works if you know what the theme of your story is. This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you know that you are going to be exploring mercy vs justice, you give your protagonist a problem with fairness or something.

    4. The Tragic Backstory card. Or just the backstory card. The way they grew up influenced them. The one who lived in a cutthroat world trusts no one. The princess could be an elitist. Even someone with a perfectly normal, healthy childhood could end up with flaws like naivety, an over-simplified view of the world, a hard time understand those who didn’t have the support growing up that they did, or struggle with feeling like the normal one in a band of epic heroes.

    If by main problem you mean “My character has so many flaws! How will I just pick one to work on?” then you look at other characters and the surrounding world and ask how they would compliment/combat the weakness.

    The cake is a lie. acaylor.com

    Sarah Inkdragon

    Most of my characters are literally built as problems, to be honest, but in my opinion the best way to find a character’s greatest flaw is not to seek it out – but to let it show itself. My main character is idealistic and passionate – but with that passion comes a temper and fiery words that can hurt more than steel when he chooses to be particularly eloquent. Another MC is quiet and withdrawn, skilled in his area of trade and a bit emotionally suppressed – but he’s also sullen and moody at times, always thinking the worst of people and being quick to attempt to lie and shift the blame from himself to others. The third MC is gentle and caring for his family, protective and only wanting to do others good – and at the same time he’s naive and rather cowardly, with a rather temperamental attitude that can take a turn for the worst at any moment. Slightly unhinged, that one… The last major MC is confident, bold, and caring, wanting nothing more than to reach her goals no matter what. With that comes rashness and irresponsibility, and an inability to see that her actions can harm others beyond herself.

    I didn’t write these characters with these flaws in mind – but gradually, after fleshing them out and getting to know them, the flaws appeared. The best way to find flaws in not to assign them, but to let them show as you go. Define who your characters are, and start writing. Even just short snippets can give you some great information on who they are, what they stand for, and what their flaws are. 😉

    "A hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head."

    - C. S. Lewis

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