Finding Your Character’s Fortunate Flaw

A big shout-out for today’s post goes to my new friend, author Molly Tinsley*, who spoke at the MidValley Willamette Writers meeting last Thursday. Once per term, I take my novel writing students to this meeting, to introduce them to the local writing scene and networking. My students agreed that Molly’s most fascinating writing tip was that of the character’s FORTUNATE FLAW.
Writing Tip for Today: When you assign characteristics, personalities and particulars for your lead character, you may think of heroic qualities first. But what about your hero’s Achilles heel?

  • Make the Flaw Count. The “fortunate flaw” idea can help you make your character more appealing by giving her/him a chink in the armor that ultimately helps him/her overcome obstacles and meet the goal. I’ve often discussed making a heroine vulnerable, but using the words “fortunate flaw” helps me remember that I want my character’s shortcoming to be instrumental in the story. It’s not simply a random thing, but something that will have a direct bearing on the story.
  • Open the Door to a Bigger Character. Another reason to think about this flaw in terms of “fortunate” is to remind yourself that the flaw will keep the door ajar to propel the character into growth, learning and self-discovery. A larger-than-life character is not only more memorable, but also grabs readers’ hearts as well as their minds. If your hero starts out wounded by love yet longing for love, it’s easy to see that he isn’t bitter to the point of hating the world. The hero may not realize he’s longing for a long time, but the flaw keeps poking his side until he gets it.
  • Ramp Up Conflict and Tension. A fortunate flaw helps you as the writer keep tension high and conflicts rampant. A character who because of this flaw doesn’t want to do something but is forced into by the flaw is more interesting than a character who acts out of pure self-interest or other selfish motives. Just one more way to keep your hero’s feet to the flames.

Think About It
What’s YOUR character’s FORTUNATE FLAW?
*Molly Tinsley is an award-winning author now connected with Fuze Publishing LLC.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

4 comments on “Finding Your Character’s Fortunate Flaw

  1. Yes! And to think that acknowledging the flaw helps keep things “real” will add depth to the writing – speak to people’s hearts

    wonderful reminder Linda!

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