Creating Characters Who are a Little LESS Legendary

Why do people, especially children, love legends?

Simple. You have characters doing unbelievable things. They cross the United States planting a forest. They steal from the unscrupulous rich and give to the poor. They create rivers and canyons and mountains.

They don’t sleep. They don’t get sick.

The fact is, they’re too perfect. They don’t have any flaws. We want characters who have flaws. It helps us relate to them and understand them. It helps us to get involved with the story and sympathize with them.

So. Think about your protagonists and antagonists.

What are their main flaws?

  • What do you think their flaws are?
  • What do THEY think their own flaws are?
  • What do they think one another’s flaws are?
  • What do other people consider their flaws?

How can you show these flaws, incorporate them by showing, to make your characters more believable?

If you think about Anne of Green Gables (one of my all-time favorite books), Anne is constantly getting into trouble. She daydreams too much. She doesn’t pay close enough attention and lets her mind wander. The result is that she ends up burning cakes, adding unsavory flavoring, creating a forest she’s too afraid to walk through and a myriad of other trials. Not only did they make me laugh as a child, but as an adult, they help me see how hard she’s trying, even if she keeps getting in her own way. And that makes me root for her.

If your character doesn’t have flaws, you don’t have any internal conflict. And internal conflict is something we can all relate to, when we can’t all relate to what it’s like to face down a dragon.

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  1. What a timely post as I work on my characters today! Thanks. I’m going to ask those 4 questions.

  2. Robin says:

    Patricia – Glad it helped!
    If you don’t mind my asking, do you feel you learned something about your characters?

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