50 Character Flaws to Use In Your Next Screenplay

Master the subtleties of writing character flaws to sculpt stories that resonate with audiences.

Our list of fifty character flaws will help you understand how these faults and failings define your characters’ journey and influence a screenplay’s narrative.

Explore how each flaw can drive conflict, foster development, and add a layer of realism within your writing.

Key Takeaways

  • Character flaws are essential in storytelling, providing depth and complexity to characters, and driving narrative conflict and character development.

  • A balanced approach to character flaws is crucial, ensuring that characters have a mix of traits, and their flaws stem from a believable backstory, enhancing reader engagement.

  • Flaws vary from minor quirks to major flaws and fatal flaws (hamartia), each playing distinct roles in the narrative and influencing the character’s arc and relationships within the story.

Understanding Character Flaws in Storytelling

Jordan Belfort - "The Wolf of Wall Street" (2013): Ambitious, charismatic, and driven by greed. His flaws lead to his downfall and legal troubles.

Character flaws act as windows into the psyche of a character, providing a compelling and relatable facet to their personality.

These imperfections bring depth to the character, making them feel more tangible and intriguing. They enrich the story by giving characters motivations, strengthening interactions, and adding nuance to plot conflicts.

Definition

A character flaw is a negative quality in a person that affects them or others in a detrimental way, typically causing unintentional harm.

However, this definition doesn’t strictly mean that all flaws are bad. Some may be interpreted as strengths in certain scenarios, and striking the right equilibrium between a character’s strengths and their flaws is a key aspect of character development.

Consider stubbornness, for instance. While it could be considered a flaw, it may also be viewed as a testament to a character’s determination and resilience.

The Spectrum of Character Flaws

Character flaws can be minor, major, or fatal, each playing a different role in shaping the narrative. Minor flaws like being a picky eater add uniqueness to a character’s personality, while major flaws like greed, envy, or arrogance significantly impact their ability to pursue goals.

A fatal flaw is a significant defect that a character refuses to acknowledge or correct, potentially leading to their character’s downfall. A minor flaw may not have such severe consequences as a major or fatal flaw, but all three categories have an impact on the narrative arc and the depth of your characters.

Black Swan (2010) - Attack It! Scene (2/5) | Movieclips

The Role of Flaws in Character Development

Flaws provides the fuel for development, igniting emotional or moral struggles that either lead to self-awareness and personal growth or further entrenchment of these flaws. These flaws catalyse plot progression and conflict while balancing character strengths and weaknesses, determining the story’s trajectory and emotional depth.

They establish relatability, inspiring sympathy and emotional investment by reflecting realistic imperfections, often revealing characters’ ignorance of their own flaws.

Crafting Believable Flaws for Your Characters

Tyler Durden - "Fight Club" (1999): Charismatic, rebellious, a and nihilistic. He embodies chaos and self-destructive tendencies. His flaws lead to destructive consequences as he incites violence and anarchy.

The creation of believable character faults demands thoughtful deliberation. Flaws should be relatable, reflect common human experiences, and add depth rather than being one-dimensional traits. But be careful not to overdo it.

Flaws that are too exaggerated can diminish a character’s relatability; characters should have a balance of positive and negative qualities.

Balancing Flaws with Strengths and Integrating them into Backstories

Maintaining a balance between a character’s virtues and shortcomings ensures their complexity and keeps readers engaged. For instance, a character might be intelligent but also arrogant, or kind but overly trusting.

This balance shows that the character is capable of overcoming or managing their weaknesses, making them more appealing to readers.

A character’s major flaw needs a solid foundation, typically a traumatic or significant backstory, for readers to accept it. This provides a plausible foundation for their behaviour and makes them compelling to readers. Whether your character is a protagonist or an antagonist, their backstory provides the context for their flaws, adding depth and believability to the story.

Flaws as Plot Drivers

Flaws play a vital role in generating conflict and shaping a character’s arc, as they prompt the protagonist to make decisions and mistakes that engage readers. They can lead to dramatic scenes full of suspense or chaos, providing opportunities for plot twists and keeping readers on their toes.

Using them to create tension and conflict can make for engaging storytelling and lead to interesting plot developments.

Identifying Major and Minor Imperfections

Amy Dunne - "Gone Girl" (2014): Cunning, manipulative, and vengeful, crafting elaborate schemes to control her own narrative.

Whether minor, major, or tragic, each flaw plays a different role in character development, their interactions with other characters and the plot.

Minor Flaws: The Subtle Touches

A minor flaw can be a character trait such as:

  • nail biting

  • stuttering

  • keeping a messy bedroom

  • laughing in awkward moments

  • drinking too much coffee

These may seem insignificant as a character’s flaw but they add individuality and make fictional people relatable and tangible, without dominating the narrative.

They can manifest in various forms, including physical, emotional, mental, or circumstantial features, thereby distinguishing a character in a more subtle manner.

Major Flaws: Core to Conflict

These play a critical role in shaping a character’s journey and the conflicts that arise within the story. They can manifest as excessive desire, predatory or boastful behaviour, greed, envy, or deep-seated psychological issues like paranoia or obsessiveness.

A major flaw pushes the narrative forward, often driven by an irrational fear.

For instance, a character may be manipulative, cruel, or obsessively focused on an activity or person, which significantly affects their interactions and the story.

Fatal Flaws: The Path to Downfall

Fatal flaws, also known as ‘hamartia‘, are significant imperfections in a character that lead to their downfall or negative arc within the story.

They can result in substantial consequences such as moral death, the death of a relationship, or even the character’s literal death, adding thematic complexity to the narrative.

The recognition and resolution, or lack thereof, of a fatal flaw is pivotal to a character’s character arc and the story’s climax, often determining the ultimate fate of the character.

Building Complex Characters with Unique Flaws

Nina Sayers - "Black Swan" (2010): Becomes consumed by her quest for perfection, leading to a descent into madness.

Crafting compelling characters necessitates the creation of unique flaws, encapsulating a range of imperfections that influence their life and relationships. But creating unique faults isn’t just about thinking out of the box. It’s also about making these flaws realistic and avoiding clichés.

Avoiding Stereotypes in Flaw Creation

While crafting a character flaw, it is beneficial to focus on characters moulded by their backgrounds and circumstances, rather than resorting to stereotypical traits. This adds depth and complexity rather than being defined by a single trait. For instance, clichés should be carefully avoided, especially with elements like scars that could become clichéd if not integral to the character’s thematic journey. Drawing inspiration from real-life personalities helps create characters with authentic and relatable flaws, which enhances the readers’ connection to the story. Imperfections that we see in ourselves and others around us, such as indecisiveness or being overly talkative, humanise the characters and can also provide comic relief or moments of bonding.

Utilising Flaws in Various Character Roles

Mark Zuckerberg - "The Social Network" (2010): Lack of empathy strains his relationships and lead to legal battles.

Flaws in characters, including the main character, are critical as they contribute to creating conflicts, building relationships, and propelling the plot forward within the narrative.

Protagonists with Relatable Weaknesses

The creation of likable yet flawed protagonists is pivotal in establishing a connection with readers and keeping them invested in the narrative journey.

For instance, a protagonist who is intelligent and kind but struggles with self-doubt can inspire readers to root for them, enhancing the readers’ empathy for the character.

Antagonists’ Flaws and Motivations

The flaws and motivations of an antagonist can hold equal importance as those of the protagonist. For instance, an antagonist’s greed can often drive them to commit deceitful acts for personal gain, which reveals their underlying motivation for their harmful actions.

Antagonists’ flaws can play crucial roles in the story by giving protagonists an edge to exploit or by precipitating the antagonists’ defeat.

The Social Network (2010) - A Billion Dollars Scene (6/10) | Movieclips

Supporting Characters’ Flaws and Dynamics

Supporting characters should have flaws and vulnerabilities to avoid the ‘perfect character trap,’ which can make them uninteresting and less human. Imperfect supporting characters are necessary to create tension and drive the story, especially when main characters are portrayed as too perfect.

The weaknesses of supporting characters can complement the strengths of protagonists, creating a balanced and dynamic ensemble.

The Impact of Physical Flaws in Fiction

Physical flaws can significantly influence how characters perceive themselves and how they are viewed by others. These flaws can influence how other characters and readers view them, which can enhance the narrative experience. Some examples of physical flaws that can shape a character’s perceived identity in fiction include:

  • Scars

  • Limps

  • Birthmarks

  • Missing limbs

  • Facial disfigurements

These physical attributes often come with societal stereotypes and preconceptions that contribute to shaping fictional characters’ perceived identity.

50 Character Flaws

  1. Nail-biting
  2. Tardiness
  3. Messiness
  4. Forgetfulness
  5. Indecisiveness
  6. Sarcastic
  7. Pessimistic
  8. Superstitious
  9. Impulsiveness
  10. Disorganised
  11. Clumsiness
  12. Vanity
  13. Procrastination
  14. Cynical
  15. Stubbornness
  16. Perfectionism
  17. Overindulgent
  18. Overly cautious
  19. People-pleasing
  20. Tendency to interrupt
  21. Overly sensitive
  22. Manipulative
  23. Arrogant
  24. Jealous
  25. Compulsive liar
  26. Self-centered
  27. Controlling
  28. Greedy
  29. Substance abuse
  30. Insecurity
  31. Workaholic
  32. Inability to trust
  33. Narcissistic
  34. Passive-aggressive
  35. Impatient
  36. Envious
  37. Attention-seeking
  38. Judgmental
  39. Defensive
  40. Disloyal
  41. Hubris
  42. Betrayal
  43. Recklessness
  44. Self-destructive tendencies
  45. Obsessive
  46. Delusional
  47. Compulsive hoarding
  48. Hot-tempered
  49. Naivety
  50. Vindictiveness

Writing Exercises to Explore Character Flaws

Here are some exercises to assist you in exploring and developing character flaws in your writing:

  • Construct a character profile

  • Write scenes from a character’s first-person perspective

  • Craft a hypothetical social setting

  • Compose a short story about a character at a different age

  • Draw your character to enhance physical descriptions

Happy writing!

Summary

A character’s flaw plays a pivotal role in storytelling. They shape the narrative, create conflict, and make characters more relatable. Whether you’re creating a protagonist, an antagonist, or a supporting character, flaws add depth and complexity to the character.

Remember, it’s not just about creating a flawed character, but creating a character whose flaws are integral to their personality, their motivations, and the overall narrative. Let’s embrace the imperfections that make our characters human and our stories captivating.

Frequently Asked Questions

– What is a flawed character?

A flawed character is someone with significant weaknesses or personal failings that negatively impact their journey. This can include inner demons, poor choices, and undesirable qualities that unintentionally hurt themselves or others.

– What are the three types of flaws?

Flaws can be categorized into minor, major, and fatal. Minor flaws differentiate characters and make them more memorable, though they may not significantly impact the story like a fatal flaw could.

– What is a ‘deep’ character flaw?

Deep character flaws can include traits like excessive pride, impulsiveness, stubbornness, or an inability to trust others or themselves, which can drive characters to make poor choices or lead them into difficult situations, prompting personal growth.

– How can I make my character’s flaws believable?

To make your character’s flaws believable, ensure they are relatable, reflect common human experiences, and add depth rather than being one-dimensional traits. This creates more realistic and engaging characters.

– How can I avoid stereotypes when creating character flaws?

Focus on creating characters shaped by their background and circumstances to avoid stereotypes when depicting character flaws. This approach will add depth and authenticity to your characters.

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