Guest Author Joseph Max Lewis and Whiny Brooding Characters

What’s your flaw? Are you afraid of spiders? Do you shudder at the sight of a lady bug? Do heights make you vomit? We all have fears and flaws that make us less than perfect. Book characters should have flaws, too. Right?

Today, guest author Joseph Max Lewis is sharing how he demonstrates flaws in his characters.

“As writers we’re often taught that our characters need to be round, that they should grow and develop along an arc during the story. Often times to achieve this our characters need to have certain personality flaws – often sympathetically depicted – that affect them and how they react to events. In a good story, the character confronts these flaws and reaches some type of resolution. 



I’m all in favor of round characters, but somehow, perhaps in reaction to overly idealized characters, round has come to mean whining, tormented, brooding, and fearful wimps. If you consider popular fiction, both in books and on television, you find a world populated by self-absorbed weaklings. (My sister in law, mother of a young son, once said letting young boys watch network television is little better than child abuse.)

Most readers don’t like these wimpy introspective men. They may feel sorry for them, feel called to help them, but they don’t enjoy reading about them. They don’t want to watch movies about them either.  

Most readers want to read about a strong character doing stuff.

This is a huge opportunity for writers.

I write thrillers. Whatever message(s) my novels tell are interwoven into the story. They’re a part of the action, the dialogue, or of the plot itself.  I want my readers to admire the good guys. They have weak moments and problems, we all do, but I don’t depict agonized self-doubting, introspective characters in my novels. If you doubt such guys exist in the world, if you worry that such characters are not round, consider the firemen during 9-11. These men were conflicted and scared, but they fought those feelings, refusing to dwell on them, and wouldn’t let their flaws rule what they did.

Don’t have your characters brood over their flaw or tragedy. Bring it up right away, don’t overdo it, and then don’t mention it again for 50 or so pages. Don’t have the character think about their fear – use action. If Billy Bob’s mom kept him locked in a closet as a child, have another character say, “Hey Billy, the body’s in the closest, you okay?” Rather than having Billy brood about it, break out in hives, or drink himself into oblivion, have Billy make himself go into the closet, do what’s needed and leave. Later, on the way home, he can think, “I’ve got to get over that,” or something. These are the kinds of characters people care about, the kind who struggle, but move on despite their flaws.”

Here’s a blurb about Max’s book:

The Diaries of Pontius Pilate opens when a member of an archeological team is murdered along the shores of the Dead Sea. The murderer and victim are both spies, observing the expedition and grappling with the fact that the team has just discovered some controversial artifacts.

Archeologist Kevin Elliot and his Deputy, Jill Gates, have unearthed twenty copper scrolls etched with the results of Pontius Pilate’s year long criminal investigation into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  They manage to open one scroll far enough to take a series of digital photographs of the writings and email them to a Professor of Ancient Latin for translation. Unaware of the scrolls content, Kevin and Jill are unprepared when they’re caught between an ancient conspiracy of global power that’s determined to destroy the scrolls along with everyone connected to them, and a small, fledgling volunteer group, the only force on earth that stands between Kevin, Jill and certain death.

The Diaries of Pontius Pilate is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. To buy a Kindle copy for $4.99 Click here.

Here is a review:

“Lewis has written a nail-biting thriller that jumps into action on page 1 and doesn’t stop until you reach the back cover. Don’t open this book unless you’re sitting in a comfortable chair with good reading light, because you won’t want to move.” – Thom Lemmons, Christy award winning author of Jabez: A Novel, and Blameless.

Visit for more about Max, the book and his writing.

How do you show your character’s flaws?

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  1. J Hodges says:

    I like the way you develop your characters. I agree, readers want a strong character that can carry their interest.

    • Hi J!
      Doesn’t Max’s book sound intriguing? I’m looking forward to reading it. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Thanks J, its a balance between creating a superman and a wimp, but modern fiction, in my opinion, has gone way too far in the direction of wimp. In the end, even the strongest of plots can only carry a book so far – you need strong characters. Thanks for stopping by. Max

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