Character flaws are essential in literature. In real life we are surrounded by them for heaven’s sake. You may even have some. I know I do. Yes, we all have flaws so why shouldn’t our characters?
But where do you stop the flaws so you don’t lose and repulse the reader? That is the magic question. Should you really have a main character that is a car salesman who is an alcoholic, wife- beating adulterer?
You lost me at car salesman.
Of course, there are many flawed characters in literature. For example, Hamlet, for example, with his self-doubt and even Harry Potter with his occasional displays of anger and arrogance. My favourite author, Graham Greene had many main characters with deep-seated flaws. There’s the priest in Power and the Glory, an alcoholic who has fathered a child.
Then there’s Thomas Fowler, the main character in The Quiet American, a journalist in his fifties who lives with a girl in her twenties. And to top it off, he’s an opium addict. How can he be a character and a protagonist to boot, that the reader would want to invest their emotions in? But with skilled plot development and resolution they can.
Flaws in characters can be minor or major. Minor flaws are ones that characters have that won’t affect the plot. A minor flaw can be a scar on a character’s face, a thick accent or an annoying habit such as constant throat clearing.
There are the major flaws. These will be more impacting and will impair characters in a physical, mental or moral way. They will also affect plot development. For a protagonist, the major flaw is going to be a core problem. It is going to be a journey that will form the basis of the book.
Where does that leave my main character, the sardonic Aussie journalist, Peter Clancy?
He’s definitely flawed all right. Clancy is a tabloid journalist who will do nearly anything for a story short of selling his grandmother.
He’s heavy-drinking, uncommitted to relationships and carries around baggage from his past. He’s also untidy. So how can the reader stay committed to a protagonist who may possibly annoy the shit out of them?
And now Clancy has decided to head to London to work for a tabloid paper there.
As you know the London tabloids do have a shocking reputation.
Stay tuned for Part Two.