Writing good fiction is all about creating conflict. Stories without conflict are boring. When there’s nothing for a character to fight, nothing for him to win without great struggle, there is no story. Characters need an element of vulnerability. The reader needs to see beyond the facade of bravado if you want them to connect and begin to care.
Conflict comes in many forms. External forces create obvious obstacles. Internal conflict creates more subtle ones. Sometimes an internal conflict is so subtle, the character may not realize this is what’s driving him forward.
Characters Need A Reason To Care Too
Readers aren’t the only ones who need a reason to care. Your characters do too. They need a goal, they need desires. Without them, they have no reason at all to move forward and grow. Without that growth, there is no story.
Giving your character very real flaws to their personality creates ways in which you can introduce conflict. We all know the antagonists use this all the time. They’ll find the hero’s flaws and exploit them. It works the other way too. A hero can eventually discover the baddie’s hidden vulnerability and use it to his advantage to win the day.
Oddly enough, the use of vulnerability can get readers to care about your bad guy too. A bad guy evil just for the sake of being evil is pretty boring. When a reader understands the motives behind the wicked behavior, they begin to care about the bad guy. Caring doesn’t mean they have to love this individual, it means you’ve created a personality that has evoked a specific emotion toward him or her, whether it’s hate or love, or any of the various degrees in-between.
No Need to Be Negative
Flaws don’t have to be negative. Generosity and kindness can also be flaws. In your story, a character’s flaw is another obstacle they need to get around before they can move on.
These kind of positive flaws place limitations on the character. What if your character has a strict moral code? He knows exactly what lines he won’t cross and why. When the antagonist gets a hold of this, it’s very easy for him to put the hero in sticky situations where choices have to be made.
Will the hero stick to his code or will he break down and go against his nature? If he goes against his nature, how will that effect him in the long run? How will that change the course of the story?
Vulnerable characters don’t have to be emotional cripples or raging psychotics. All of us are vulnerable in one way or another and many times, it’s not apparent to the public. We work hard to keep our flaws hidden. Only when we feel safe and secure in an environment or with another person do we allow ourselves to show this hidden side. Your character shouldn’t be any different.
How do you create your character flaws? What makes them vulnerable?