Tragically Flawed – How To Make Your Hero/Heroine More Human

No one is perfect. We try to be. We want everyone else to be, but no one is perfect.

If you don’t believe me, ask my house. It looks far from perfect on any given day of the week.

If you don’t believe me, ask my hairdo. It falls flat more often than not.

If you don’t believe me, ask my manuscript. It needs editing that even a red pen gasps at.

If no one is perfect, why is it that we create perfect characters?

Yes, we want readers to love them and find them inspiring, but last I checked we can’t stand the perfect people. They remind us of our own imperfections.

How can we make our Hero and Heroine more human?

In our manuscripts our hero and heroine need to be amazing, inspiring and heroic. They also need to be flawed. It is more than just making mistakes. There needs to be something that they struggle with in their day to day lives.

Let’s look at a few well known characters:

*Anne from Anne of Green Gables is tragically flawed with temper and impulsiveness.

*Luke Skywalker from Star Wars struggles with inexperience and an overwhelming desire to find his father which makes him vulnerable to the dark side.

*The captain from The Perfect Storm is flawed by greed.

*Buttercup from The Princess Bride  is flawed by her fear of abandonment and lack of faith in love.

Why do these flaws matter so much to the story and building reader empathy?

*Anne gets in to all kinds of trouble and heartbreak because of her temper and impulsiveness.

*Luke Skywalker rushes in to fight Darth Vader thinking that he change him. His inexperience gets him in over his head.

*The captain’s greed puts the ship and crew up against a killer storm that they may not survive.

*Buttercup feels abandoned and worries that she will be alone forever. A feeling we can all relate to.

How To Make Your Hero/Heroine More Human:

1. Identify the great challenge your character faces in the story.

Examples:

*Anne- Getting the acceptance of the home she is sent to. They originally wanted a boy. They got her. Now she must convince them to keep her.

*Luke Skywalker- Becoming a Jedi and overcoming the dark side.

*Captain- Making enough money to keep his business and overcoming the storm.

*Buttercup- Finding and keeping her one true love.

2. Pick a character flaw that makes the challenge your character faces in the story more difficult.

Examples:

*Anne- Her impulsiveness and temper frustrate the very people she wants to accept her.

*Luke Skywalker- His inexperience and passion for overcoming the dark side make him naive and he rushes in before he is ready making it difficult to overcome the dark side.

*Captain- His greed keeps him from turning back when the storm alerts are given and pushes him further into the danger zone.

*Buttercup- Her fear that she is abandoned leads her to accepting the prince’s proposal, making it difficult to find and keep her one true love.

How do you make your characters more human? OR Who do you think is the most likable characters you’ve seen in a movie?

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About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

4 thoughts on “Tragically Flawed – How To Make Your Hero/Heroine More Human

  1. My character is hiding a secret and living a lie. The nursery rhyme “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” keeps going through her mind.

  2. Michelle Lim says:

    OH, I love that, PAT! Secrets are a fabulous way to build on the tragic flaw of your character.

  3. Hi Michelle,
    I saw SPIDERMAN last weekend and I love dissecting movies. Our hero in this movie is a teen boy who’s made fun of. I fall in love with him from the beginning because I feel sorry for him. His parents were killed when he was a young child. I love to root for characters who are the underdogs. But, just like other teenagers, when he gets his power, he abuses it. He has to learn how to manage the responsibility. But this character flaw is believable and one we can tolerate because we like him so much that we make excuses for his behavior. I believe we have to like the good in someone to overlook the flaws. Isn’t that true in life, too? (I think my hubby overlooks my flaws on a daily basis. What a great guy!)

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