Everybody has a flaw… or eighty. I personally pay too much attention to details instead of taking in the big picture, I complain a lot, and I’m too competitive, just to list a few. All of my friends are just as flawed, making bad decisions left and right, but I don’t lose faith in them, even when some errors are made repeatedly.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, can you think of a person who you view as absolutely lacking flaws? Probably not, but if you can, do you actually like them, or do you resent their perfection and struggle to suppress jealousy?
When I read a book character that always makes the right choice and that all the other characters like, I get bored very fast. Such a character is flat, not evolving, and basically useless for plot development. A perfect character is automatically a dreaded Mary-Sue.
Characters need to be flawed. A character who makes mistakes could be comical, or it could insert the possibility for some level of suspense to develop in the story. A flawed character allows the reader to worry that everything won’t go to plan. And sometimes, it doesn’t go to plan and deeper levels can be developed in the story.
However, a character that bears too many flaws can start to bog a story down and reduce the reader’s empathy for the character. A stubborn, rude, selfish, bigot doesn’t make for a potential hero. Those undesirable characteristics have to be mixed in with more admirable ones to create an interesting and believable character. Where flaws are concerned, it all comes down to balance.
It is balance in all aspects of a story that keeps a reader engaged, but an unbalanced personality in the main character can destroy a reader’s interest within two chapters of starting a story.
It all comes down to balance, in real life or in a story. Humans naturally seek balance. A well-rounded student is revered in school, a person with multiple skills is sought by employers. The pursuit of balanced characters is really just a reflection of the balance that we humans seek in many areas of our lives.
Where do you think balance is most important? Which flaws are most easily forgivable?