Tuesday, January 21, 2014

10 Reasons Our Hero Needs Flaws

with guest Angela Ackerman.

When we see the word Hero, we think heroic, which is ironic because our protagonists are usually anything but at the start of a story. Instead they are often jaded, lost or incomplete in some way, toting along a collection of flaws and false beliefs about the world and themselves. But that’s okay, because characters that fascinate readers most are layered, complex, and most of all, human. Brainstorming flaws can be difficult—which faults to choose, how many to give them and why, but here are ten reasons why all heroes need them. 

In real life, people have faults-no one is perfect. It stands to reason that for a character to be believable, he also must be flawed. Readers are people too, ones who are as prone to poor choices, mistakes, and overreactions due to their shortcomings as our hero is. When they see the fallout created by a character’s faults,  they empathize, knowing just how it feels to screw up. And as the character learns more about himself and works toward overcoming his flaws to reach his goals, the reader will cheer him on because the desire to achieve self-growth is universal.  

To write a compelling character, it isn’t enough to slap a few attributes and flaws into their personality and then throw them at the story. Fascinating characters come about by understanding who they are at their core. If you know a character’s flaws, you can brainstorm their past to better understand what experiences made these negative traits form. Backstory is valuable to know (for you as the author, not to dump into the story) because it helps you plot out what motivates them, how they will behave (their choices, mannerisms, pet peeves, etc.), and what they avoid to keep from being emotionally hurt. Knowing these details means you’ll be able to write them authentically, making them real to readers. (If you would like help brainstorming your character’s past, I recommend trying the Reverse Backstory Tool.)  

3) TO CAUSE RELATIONSHIP FRICTION: When everyone gets along, a story flat lines. Flaws act as sandpaper in a relationship, rubbing characters against one another to create delicious friction. A flaw vs. flaw (sloppiness pitted against a perfectionist) or a flaw vs. an attribute (inflexibility vs. free-spiritedness) both build tension and conflict which draws readers in, quickens the pace and raises personal & relationship stakes. For more detail, here’s an article on How to Create Friction In Relationships.

4) TO CREATE CONFLICT: Flaws mean blind spots, biases, pet peeves and irrational emotional reactions to name a few. All of these things cause the hero to mess up along the way, creating conflict. A story road paved with mistakes, misjudgements and poor choices amp up tension at all levels, and make it even harder for the character to succeed. The antagonist can turn the hero’s mistakes to his own advantage, becoming an even greater threat.  

5) TO PROVIDE A BALANCE: If a hero has too many strengths (positive attributes), not only will he come across as unrealistic, it will be too easy for him to succeed. This makes the story predictable because as conflict pops up, there are no flaws to hamper the hero’s efforts or create setbacks, and he will always win. Readers want to see a hero struggle, because it makes the victories so much sweeter. Failure is also important to a character’s  arc: he must hit bottom before he can succeed.

6) TO REVEAL EMOTIONAL WOUNDS: Flaws bloom into being as a false protective measure when a person suffers an emotional wound. Why false? Because while they appear to “protect” a person from bad experiences (emotional pain), they actually hold back growth and damage relationships. Take a girl who grows up with parents who have high standards. They only bestow affection when she proves herself to be the best and so later in life, she equates anything less than perfection as failure. She may become a workaholic, inflexible, and overachieve, all to protect herself from feeling low self-worth at not measuring up (thanks for that, Mom and Dad!). Flaws are guideposts to these deep emotional wounds, something every author should know about their characters as it ties directly into Character Arc (see below).

7) TO GENERATE INNER CONFLICT: Inner conflict is the place where the characters faults (flaws) and negative thoughts (I’ll never be good enough, I’ll never find love, I’m not worthy, etc.) reside. Good story structure dictates that a protagonist’s flaws should be counterproductive to achieving his goal and that his negative thoughts should sabotage his self-worth. These things are what the hero must face about himself and change. Only through subduing his flaws will he have a chance at achieving his goal. 

8) TO BE A FORCE FOR CHANGE: Flaws get in the way at the worst times, pressuring the character to act. Let’s say our hero is determined to take control of his family’s struggling company, but he’s notoriously irresponsible. To keep the business afloat, he must apply himself. His desire to not disappoint the people counting on him force him to take a hard look inward at his own irresponsibility, which he must change to succeed. 

9) TO ENCOURAGE SELF-GROWTH: As I mentioned before, one of the core needs of all people is to grow as a person. Growth is tied to happiness and fulfillment, so if your characters has flaws, small ones or big ones, showing him overcome them allows him to feel satisfied and happier, and will resonate with readers who are on their own journey of self-improvement. 

10) TO COMPLETE THE CHARACTER’S ARC: Flaws shouldn’t be random—each flaw forms from a negative past experience. In Character Arc, there should be at least one core flaw that stands in the character’s way (see inner conflict) of achieving his goal. For the character to win (his outer motivation) he must face his fears, deal with the emotional wounds of his past, and see that achieving his goal is more important that the risk of suffering another emotional wound. Only by subduing his core flaw and banishing his negative thoughts can he be free of fear. This necessary self-growth will help him find the strength needed to achieve his goal.

Whew, that’s a lot of heavy stuff! Who knew that flaws were so important?
Like so many things in writing, we can draw parallels between ourselves and our world & the character and his story world. When we look at our own faults, we see what we tend to avoid and what we fear. We can use this same filter for our characters, using the flaws we hobble then with to steer the story. (If you’d like some tips on how to choose the right flaws for your protagonist, just follow this link!


ANGELA ACKERMAN is a writing coach and co-author of the bestselling writing resource, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression, as well as the newly released Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Attributes and its darker cousin, The  Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook and at Writers Helping Writers (formerly The Bookshelf Muse).

Today Seekerville will be giving away the winner's choice of one of Angela's books in  ebook format. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition. But you have to comment to win!


  1. Welcome, Angela. Mary, there are other ways to speed up the action than shooting someone. Give them a flaw! I've brought a Lemon Cooler cake to go with the coffee this morning. Oh, and by the way, Angela, I don't want one of your books. I am not a writer, but find your post fascinating!


    How exciting that you have two companion books to your thesaurus!!

    Anything else in the works??

  3. I will read later but just wanted to let you all know I am having surgery on Thursday. The dr looked at my info and said I had suffered long enough. God is so good. we were praying for an appointment never thought I would have it out this week.

  4. Awesome, Jenny! So glad it's working out

  5. Happy for you Jenny.

    I have all three books! Now to turn in this rewrite and use them in the WIP.

  6. Jenny - so thankful you are getting your surgery.

    I have the emotion book, but would live a chance at one of the others!

  7. Good morning, Angela. I have the Emotion Thesaurus. Use it all the time.

    People have told me my hero's a jerk in my current wip. When I go back and look, I realize I failed to make it clear why he's acting this way. I glaze over his past so they don't understand what motivates him. Too much info gets stuck in my head w/out getting translated to the paper.

    Great points.

  8. Hi Angela,

    Welcome to Seekerville. The Emotion Thesaurus sits on my desk, and I love it. Please toss my name in the drawing.

    What a great post today. I'm definitely making a copy.

    Thanks for sharing with us today!

  9. Hi Jenny,

    I'm so glad to hear about your surgery. I'll be praying for a successful surgery and great outcome.

  10. Good morning ANGELA! Congrats on the two new books! I have the first and will have to check these out, too. Excellent post--there are so many behind-the-scenes things that go into character development and your post highlights how many facets of a story are impacted by the "right" choice of a character flaw.

  11. JENNY -- I know you'll be thrilled to get this behind you. I'll be praying for your upcoming surgery and recovery.

  12. CONNIE Q - When we know our characters so thoroughly, what makes them tick, it's not always easy to see them as a first-time reader sees them. I think, too, we can get almost paranoid about providing reasons for behavior because we're fearful of a "back story dump" that will also be criticized. So it's fine line on which to balance.

  13. Angela,

    Love your top ten for hero flaws!


  14. @Marianne, how did you know LEMON is one of my fav things? Pies, cakes, bars, muffins...anything lemon and I am in heaven! (and thank you!)

    @Tina, thanks for having me! You guys are such a great community! We are just about to start writing our next Thesaurus based on the blog's Setting Thesaurus. I think this one also might need to be split into two, just because like character flaws and attributes, it's a huge topic. We are super excited. :)

    @Jenny, so glad you are getting in and taking care of your health. Here's hoping to a swift recovery and pain free days ahead. Hugs!

    @Melissa, You will ROCK that rewrite! I know it!

    @Terri, good luck!

    @Connie Queen, it is good that people have pointed this out and you understand what the problem is. This is half the battle. It's a careful balance between dropping in too much backstory and just enough to let the reader understand how the hero has been wounded by his past experiences and that his actions now are emotional armor to protect him moving forward. If you are struggling at all to figure out his backstory, try the "Reverse Backstory Tool" on our blog...you can find it here: http://writershelpingwriters.net/writing-tools/ The Character Pyramid Tool might also help (same page).

    @Jackie, so glad this post is helpful! Flaws are fascinating and really add complexity. Because each of us are flawed, we really identify with the struggles of the protagonist as he tries to overcome them and achieve self growth. We're all trying to achieve this too!

    @Glynna, thank you! It is so funny, because for me, I was always a "plot first" sort of girl. I didn't really understand the depth the character's personality adds to any piece of fiction until really delving into the topic for these two books. It makes me excited to start a new fiction project so I can apply what I now know. :) Hope these books help you! And you are dead on as far as what you said to Connie. This is why critique partners are so important--they give us the distance we lack when viewing our work. :)

    @Rose, thank you!

    I'll apologize right now if I miss anyone today--I love that this group is so active and interested in getting a conversation going, but I might cross post and miss a few! You guys are awesome and thanks so much for the lovely welcome and chance to hang out with you all. :)

  15. Angela, thanks for the treasure trove of information! I'll be reading today. :-)

    This writing thing is hard—I'm glad we have a place like Seekerville to go to for help. :-)

  16. well, everything sounds so logical and straightforward in your post. i love it. i don't have any of your books (put me in the draw for one), but i do have your website bookmarked and visit there now and then when i'm struggling. thanks for sharing here and @ writers helping writers. it's greatly appreciated.

    Jenny: happy for your surgery scheduled. will be praying the Lord guides the doctors to fix everything needed to be fixed so you can heal and be pain free. *hugs*

  17. Excellent post, Angela! So much to digest and put into use! I'm sharing this!

  18. Excellent post, Angela! So much to digest and put into use! I'm sharing this!

  19. Great post!! You're absolutely right!! If our hero didn't have flaws he'd become a cardboard cut-out. Flaws help our characters pop!!

  20. Morning ANGELA, Thanks so much for visiting here in Seekerville. I hope you enjoy your day. I sure enjoyed your post. I always love delving into the hero's character. Why is it easier to write the hero than the heroine? That is the way of it for me. I need a list on the heroine flaws and traits. Ae they in your books also? smile

    Thanks again for joining us.

  21. MARIANNE, the lemon cooler cake is delicious and goes great with my coffee. I'm like you ANGELA. I love anything lemon. My favorite pie is lemon meringue. Wish it wasn't so difficult to make.

  22. WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE, ANGELA AND, WOWZERS ... what a great blog, chock full of great info!! I read it and IMMEDIATELY wanted to purchase all of your books, which is high praise from an author who almost never buys craft books. :)

    My favorite flaws are those that pit the hero against the heroine in a humorous way. Like Mary Connealy's heroine in Fired Up, who owned a diner but couldn't cook to save her soul -- paired up with a doctor who was doing a whopping stomach ache business!

    I had fun in my latest San Francisco book pairing a tough, crotchety, gun-toting police detective who gets motion sickness on cable cars (and eats animal crackers for his upset stomach) with a sweet, but adventurous heroine who adores exploring the city ... on cable cars.

    Thanks for a great post, Angela!


  23. Angela, what a fabulous post! I always have a hard time figuring out my hero's (and other characters) flaws. You made a great case for why they need them. And your tips on how to discover them was oh, so helpful!

    Please put my name in the drawing. :)

  24. JENNY—I'm so glad to hear about your doc's appointment and the resolution to the issue. I hope all goes smoothly for you!

  25. Lemon meringue is my favorite pie, as well, Sandra. Down here we have a lemon tree on our lot, but I can't see any lemons, but it's great using fresh lemons in baking!

  26. ANGELA, what great information you've provided today--and thanks for including all the helpful links!

    I really have fun--if you can call it that--developing flawed heroes and showing how they grow and change through the course of a story.

    Congratulations on your two new companion books--must check those out!

  27. JENNY, I'm so glad your surgery was moved up so you can get on with recovery and hopefully feeling much, much better!

  28. Thanks for the "Reverse Backstory Tool," link. I'll try it out.

  29. @Mary, glad to help!

    @DebH, so glad you like this post and that you found your way to WHW. And I agree, writing is a tough path, and we all succeed together. I am so grateful to have so much support from other writers. Without it, I don't know if I would have the heart to keep going...I would have listened to the voice that said I'd never be good enough, you know?

    @Jodie, so good to see you here! Thanks for sharing :)

    @Traci, flaws are so important, and not just that they have them, but that they have the right ones for their individual path that will lead to self growth, allowing them to attain their goals. :) If I've made everyone thing a bit harder about which flaws work best with each character, that's great!

    @Sandra, I think some feel they write males better, others females. I like to write male protags more than female, but I do write both. Flaws work for both sexes, but may present slightly differently depending on the person and sex. For example, a vindictive male might "attack" someone by trying to destroy their things (key a car, etc.) while a vindictive female might be more inclined to try and ruin a reputation. The books offer a range of behavior, thoughts and attitudes that would fit any personality type and both sexes.

    @Julie, thank you for the kind words! These books are not a typical craft book, so if you are interested, check out the free previews on the "look inside" at Amazon. That will give you a better sense of what they do. I like to think of them as brainstorming tools, helping you find what you need so you can get right back into writing. :)

    I agree, creating humorous friction because of mismatched flaws is a lot of fun. And these really lead on to some great relationships, too. We all have flaws and when we can laugh at them a bit, that's healthy. :)

    @Jeanne, thank you. :) So glad this post will help you flesh out your characters a bit more. Flaws and attributes are both important, but the flaws will have widespread story repercussions and offer a window into the character's backstory. The best stories are the ones where we feel close to the character, and empathize with their hurts, motives and goals. :)

  30. Lots of great information here! Thanks for sharing!

  31. My sister and I were just talking about hero's having flaws last night :) It can be hard to remember sometimes, but oh-so-fun to include! Thanks for the great post.

    So, some people say that Jane Austin's hero's don't have flaws. I'm not crazy about Austin books, but neither do I hate them. Although I haven't read them all, I do see flaws in her heroes. Mr. Darcy has his pride. Mr. Knightley his habit of correcting people, particularly Emma (perhaps that's his pride coming out as well.) Maybe their flaws are too deep for us to connect with? Does anyone else have an opinion on this? I'd be interested to hear!

    I'd love to be entered in the drawing :)

  32. These are great. So, so true. Thanks for posting this. I will be posting the link on my blog.

  33. I think you are correct Victoria. All Austen heroes have flaws and now that you mention it, most of them do have pride issues.

    Mr. Knightly, Mr. Darcy, Captain Wentworth. Must think about Mansfield Park...

  34. What I like about your books, Angela is they are jumping off points....thinking points.

    Looking forward to the two newest ones.

  35. The biggest surprise for me was reading Angela's bio. She's from Canada. Didn't know that!

    Will you be doing any workshops in the states this year?? Is your partner also Canadian??

  36. Oh my goodness!! So happy I happenstanced onto this blog post. These three books are just what I need to set my imagination on fire! If I don't win one, I will buy them and study as long as my eyes can see and my memory holds out. Thank you for this giveaway and the chance to win a rare gift.

    Barb Shelton

  37. Angela, this is one of the best--and most informative--blogs I have ever read. Certainly one I'll save and refer to often.

    Thank you!

    Need to check out your books. You're an excellent teacher. Love the way you explain even the most complicated details about flawed characters.

    5 Stars!!!!

    So glad you can be with us today in Seekerville!

    To celebrate, I've brought cold cuts, assorted cheeses and fresh baked bread for sandwiches. Chips too. Enjoy!

  38. Wow, this is an awesome and helpful article, Angela! I can't wait to tell the high school writers I'm speaking to tomorrow! I also checked out all your links, and I have put your books on my wish list! :-) Flaws are one of the things that I struggle with. I admit, I want my heroes to be perfect. But I know they have to be flawed to build that emotional connection, but it's still hard. Thanks for these great resources!

  39. I love flawed heroes. The hero in my novella that just came out is so so so so different.
    I just love him.
    He is not a cowboy.

    Yes, that's right. And he was so fun to write. And I didn't shoot anyone...although I did have the mother of five children die tragically, but there was NO FLYING LEAD INVOLVED.

    I love this post

  40. ps Costco has all the best recipes.

  41. And my heroine that couldn't cook in Fired Up??? Based totally on me as a young bride.

    Things got pretty tense with all the billowing black smoke.

  42. This is so good, I need to print it out. I love my copy of The Emotion Thesaurus! It's a good thing I have it on Kindle I don't think an actual book would stand up to the wear and tear :)

  43. @Courtney, thanks for stopping in!

    @Victoria, I am not a big Austen reader, but every character has flaws of some sort. And, another important thing to remember is that attributes (character strengths) taken too far can also be flaws. Let's look at kindness.

    I know, you're thinking, "What's wrong with Kindness? We all want to be kind!" But extreme kindness paves the way to being taken advantage of. Through the desire to always help, and think the best of people, a kind person may lack good judgement of when to trust and when not to, and may be viewed as gullible by others. This will create problems in relationships and could also lead to self esteem issues if one is often taken advantage of. ;) Make sense?

    @Rosi, thank you for sharing! that's twice in a week now! <3

    @Tina, I'm glad. :) This was our goal--a brainstorming tool that sparks ideas and allows writers to find what they need quickly so they can get right back to writing. :)

    @Barbara, so good to see you here! (Barbara is very kind to support my Candy Crush addiction through sending me lives on FB, lol!) Glad this post will help you!

    @Debby, wow! Thank you! I am so pleased you're getting some good content out of this post. I really do love to share what I've learned, because so many others have done so with me, allowing me to grow as a writer. :) And AHHHH I love cheese. Especially this coconut flavored one my deli carries from time to time. :)

    @Melanie, have fun talking to those high school students! I love that you are encouraging their writing efforts. Imagine how far we would all be if we'd kept on writing since our teens!

    @Mary, I agree! Flaws make our characters interesting, complex and human. With so many reading choices out there, we want our readers to deeply connect with our characters, and then come back for the next book...and the next!

    @Jamie, it's so funny you say that. I have had so many people say their ETs are getting ragged that I think I'll run a contest soon for the most "well loved" book and then give a brand new copy to the winner. I can't think of a better compliment that someone wearing out their Emotion Thesaurus. :)

    Happy writing, everyone! And a big thank you again for having me here today!

  44. Hi Angela:

    Very interesting post. I have a theory on hero flaws about which I'd like to get your opinion.

    The ‘perfect’ romance.

    The hero is a hunk, rich, handsome, educated, loves his mother, is honest, and would make a great father.

    The heroine is a Plain Jane, never one of the popular girls, but a wonderful person with great inner beauty.

    The two big problems:

    1. Why is this great hero still available?
    2. Why would this great hero ever be interested in the Plain Jane heroine? (He has always been surrounded by the popular girls.)

    I believe a strong romance will convincingly answer both of these questions. A male reader should think, after reading this story, “how wonderful it would be to have such a woman love you.”

    On the other hand, a Plain Jane reader will be able to believe that this same wonderful outcome could happen to her. She too has ‘inner beauty’.

    Answers to the two questions:

    1) the hero has a flaw which either drives women away or which makes him unable to commit to any woman. (Women give up on him).

    2) the heroine, because of her strong moral character, understands the hero’s flaw and alleviates that flaw. This makes the hero whole, fully human and fully alive. It is important that the ‘cure’ be a result of the heroine’s virtue.

    It is because of the heroine’s virtuous character that the hero begins to see the heroine’s ‘inner beauty’ and, as his appreciation for her increases, she also becomes more and more physically beautiful in his eyes – (a normal result of falling in love.)

    Because the heroine has achieved this with her virtue (and not her father’s money, for example), the hero’s love is genuine and deep-rooted. He comes to love her in all respects; he admires her; he feels that together they are a complete unit; he is proud to be seen with her; and even if he is not a poet, he has come to feel that the heroine is his soulmate. She has become his eternal best friend.

    If a writer can do all this convincingly, I believe it will produce a great romance. At least one I would love!

    If you want to see over 130 examples of such a heroine, just read any Betty Neels romance. Her heroes are usually ‘no flaw’ heroes. They are handsome, physically large and strong, super intelligent, highly respected, almost always internationally famous medical specialists, and sometimes they are even titled. (They don’t use their titles). These heroes always love, protect, and take great care of their widowed mothers.

    The heroine is plain to a fault. But she is a paragon of virtue. The hero has a rich, educated, girl friend (often a fiancée) who is vain, aggressive, superficial, and who wants to marry the hero for his power and prestige. The hero is one of the few men who is worthy to be her husband. She deson’t really love the hero. This girlfriend sees the heroine as little more than a pitiful little servant.

    The hero has little time for the heroine who often acts as a nurse to his mother. As the story progresses, however, he sees what a good person she is and how she makes his rich girlfriends look shallow and souless by comparison. He never felt love for such women but he now feels obligated to marry at some point. He is often over 15 years older than the heroine.

    His mother always loves the heroine. This makes the hero look at her for the first time as wife material. As he sees more of the heroine’s inner beauty, she becomes more beautiful in all respects.

    Usually on the last two or three pages of the book he confesses his love for her and asks her to marry him. This comes as a total surprise to the heroine. What a story!

    This happened in Betty Neels real life and she kept telling this same story, over and over, for decades. She is my favorite romance writer. Probably because her heroes had no appreciable flaws. It is always fun to spend a little time as a Betty Neels hero. : )

    BTW: I have your emotional thesaurus which always stays on the first page of my 138 page Kindle index. It’s the only book that does! I’d love a chance on one of your other books.

  45. Hi Angela! The Bookshelf Muse (Writers Helping Writers) has been key to me learning how to layer my writing ... all the help with showing emotion and the details that might be found in different settings. Along with Seekerville, it's my 'go to' website. Can not thank Becca and you enough for all the info you have shared.

    Would love to be entered in the drawing for the positive trait thesaurus. If my copy of the emotion thesaurus were print, it would be worn from so much use. I keep it open on my iPad for quick consulting when I'm writing :-)

    Any plans for another thesaurus?

    Nancy C

  46. Angela,
    Thanks for pointing out that attributes can be flaws as well. That is such an interesting thought that I will probably be mulling over for the rest of the evening!

  47. Jenny So glad the surgery is soon. Hoping for excellent results and strengthened health!

    Angela a setting thesaurus would be super. Any idea how you would divide it?

    Oh, and about the topic -- With heroines and heroes, I particularly like flaws that are humorous. Most of the time, I can recognize myself and laugh.

    Nancy C

  48. So happy you can finally have surgery, Jenny! Will be praying!

    Now as for flawed characters . . . I love them! Or at least flawed heroes. Because is there anything in the world better than taking a flawed hero and turning him into a perfect match for a spunky heroine?

    Nope. Pretty sure there's not.

  49. Great post! I am bookmarking it so I can find it the next time I work on my hero. Thanks for sharing! :)

  50. Vince, I have a wip where the hero is almost flawless and the heroine is a plain childcare worker.

    I'm with you. I love it when the average girl gets the "unobtainable" hunk.

  51. Oh, I'm with Rawlings.... and so many of youse!!!!

    I'm tickled pink that Jenny's gonna get fixed!!!! :)

    And I love flawed characters, heroines and heroes and supporting cast.

    And I love the voices of wisdom as perceived by the reader, wherever they may originate.

    Angela, welcome to Seekerville!!!!

    Hey, I've mastered the art of making amazing latte's and I want to SHARE!!!!!

    I will gladly serve any and all who request.... I have limited flavorings, almond, (amaretto), vanilla, caramel and dark chocolate, but I think that's a great beginning!

    Cold up here in the north, but we're missing this storm.... it's barreling up the coast and hitting my boys in NYC.

    But Mom is home with light snow and Arctic cold!!!!

  52. Angela.... Lemon Cooler Cake????

    I think you need to come to Yankee Belle and share that recipe.

    Seriously, that just sounds WONDERFUL!!!!!!

  53. Welcome back to Seekerville, Angela!! Wonderful post! I'm trying to think if I've ever seen such a indepth look at why our heroes need flaws, though I knew my heroes sure had them. :-) This post is an excellent resource and definitely a keeper. Thank you!

    I will check out your books!



  54. Jenny, will be praying for your surgery on Thursday. Relieved you'll get that gall bladder out and soon start feeling better!

    Hugs, Janet

  55. Mary didn't shoot anyone in one of her stories? Has the earth shifted on its axis?


  56. Hi Angela! Great post. I'm just about ready to introduce the hero of my murder mystery to the heroine, and I've been brainstorming some ways to get sparks to fly between them. This ia a great help to think of flaws for him, why he has them, etc. My heroine doesn't thank you, but I sure do! (Of course, when I get to the end of the story, she'll be most grateful you helped me make him as interesting as I know he will be.) Love to read any of your books!

  57. Angela, your reasons for flaws are so helpful. By understanding the reasons for these flaws, I see my created hero can be REAL to a reader. Plus the links I checked were amazing. Thank you so much! KEEPER!

    Please enter me for one of your books.....but if I don't win, I will be buying one, or two, or ALL!

    Marianne: Love your recipe. :)

    JENNY: So pleased you have your surgery scheduled. Keeping you in our prayers!!!

  58. This is great, Angela! I'm working on character profiles right now and my hero's always give me trouble with flaws and their outer goals. These tips are so helpful. Thanks for posting!

  59. Hi Vince!

    In this scenario, I think a few things could be a play. You have what you have described here, and in fact, all romances should contain an element of "the partner filling a lack." She fills a need for him, and he her. It could be he's confident and she's not and it's holding her back, and he teacher her how to embrace her qualities to become confident and succeed. It could be that he is too studious and she is fun loving, and shows him that experience is just as valuable a teacher as books.

    Another issue at work would be their emotional wounds. Each character will have something, an event, in their past that hurt them deeply. As a result, they don emotional armor to protect themselves from ever being hurt again. Not only that, but their behavior changes after this experience, and flaws are born, as a "negative protective measure" to ensure the character is not hurt the same way again.

    Let's say his wound is the death of his mother. They were close, very loving and she showered love and pride on him, praising him for the man he was becoming (like your example). But then one night as they were driving out to dinner together, he hits a patch of black ice and the car flips. His mother is killed.

    He's a wonderful man--loving, friendly, is good father material, etc, as he tries his best to be the man his mother saw him as. BUT, he fears commitment because of the wound of losing his mother. He never wants to love someone so deeply again for the fear of losing them as he did her. Or, he could feel guilt that he was driving and his choices led to her death. (Guilt is not always logical.)

    Because of this, he avoids commitment because he fears losing them, or feels that he is only going to end up hurting the people he loves just as he did with his mother. (again, not logical, but that's how we tend to internalize senseless tragedy--we take ownership of it and blame).

    Character arc is all about overcoming one's demons, achieving internal growth and then using one's new-found perspective and strengths to achieve the outer goal. So, within the scope of the story this character would have to see that his mother's death was an accident and not his fault, and that not loving is holding him back and keeping him from happiness. He will have to see that the risk of loving someone and possibly losing them is better than avoiding love at all. Make sense?

    So knowing your character's wound is a powerful piece of information to have. It steers internal growth and allows you to match the character up with a love interest (if a romance) with wounds that are the same or compliment in a way that the two characters grow together, or use the others strength to learn something about themselves and grow.

    Hope this makes sense! Character wounds and the lies characters believe because of their fears is a whole post all by itself! :)

  60. Loved this post on character flaws. Thanks for all the informative information! The Emotional Thesaurus sounds like an interesting book!
    tscmshupe [at] pemtel [dot] net

  61. @Chill N (Best NAME ever!) Thank you so much! I love hearing that our work on the blog is helping writers. As I have said before, Becca and I have learned so much from other writers, and we are happy to pay it forward!

    We are planning the next thesaurus collection o be based on the Setting Thesaurus. There are many settings we would still like to do, and writers not using enough sensory detail in their writing is definitely something people struggle with. We're looking forward to tackling this challenging topic in book form!

    @Victoria, yes, all attributes have a negative side, and all flaws have a positive side. Each entry we've written in these books shows both sides, because the key objective is to write characters that are true to life and therefore compelling. As people we make out flaws work for us in good ways while they hold us back in others. Even extreme flaws have positive aspects. A violent or evil person is someone that others won't mess with, and that's a plus. People with this trait also make decisions without being bogged down by worry or fear. Again, a positive aspect of a very negative trait. (Showing the dual sides of flaws and attributes is especially important when portraying a villain.) Layers upon layers.

    @Naomi opposites attract! :)

    @Anna, so glad this helps!

    @Connie, I love stories like this too, as long as they don't ride the cliche. The writer really needs to set up why this "match" happens, just as Vince brought up, to make the scenario believable.

    @Ruth thanks for the welcome! And please tell me how you make homemade lattes! I could use one right about now! LOL

    @Janet, I don't have a recipe for Lemon cooler cake, but I make a mean lemon loaf! And thanks!

    @Stephanie, if you want sparks to fly, check out this post: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2014/01/04/clashing-personalities/

    And, In the Negative Trait Thesaurus, we break relationship friction into three levels: Sparks, Fireworks & Explosions. Look up the Search Inside preview at Amazon and you can see this section in the sample, along with examples of how each level changes the dynamics of the scene. (Scroll down to The Role of Flaws in Relationships: Creating Friction)

    Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/Negative-Trait-Thesaurus-Writers-Character-ebook/dp/B00FVZDZ6K/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=#reader_B00FVZDZ6K

    @Sherida, so glad the post is helping you to think about your character more deeply!

    @Natalie, I love the brainstorming part when it comes to writing. Good luck with your character creation. Do check out the tool page at Writers Helping Writers...there are several tools that will help you, and the character questionnaire is not your typical blue eyes or brown eyes q & a. If you want your character to spill his fears, secrets, hopes and wounds, the questions there will dig up everything he hides. :)

  62. Angela, I have been a fan for years! Loved the new things I found following the links.

    Super post, thanks so much for sharing. I need to catch up on all the comments.

  63. I am totally enjoying today except for the fact that Marianne mentioned Lemon Cooler cake last night and I have been searching the comments for the recipe ever since.


    So I went and found one.

    Lemon Cooler Cake

    Original recipe makes 1 9x13 pan

    1 (18.25 ounce) package lemon cake mix

    1 cup hot water

    1 cup cold water

    2 (3 ounce) packages lemon flavored Jell-O® mix

    1 cup milk

    1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix

    1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed


    Prepare cake and bake according to package directions in a 9x13 inch baking dish. With a fork, poke holes all over top of cake.
    Combine 1 cup hot water and 1 cup cold water with one package of lemon gelatin. Stir until gelatin is dissolved, and pour mixture over cake. Chill in refrigerator until cool.
    In large bowl stir together milk, vanilla pudding mix and remaining package of lemon gelatin until powders are dissolved. Fold in whipped topping and spread mixture over cake. Refrigerate until serving.

  64. In the delicate balance of flaws, I probably err on the side of too many flaws. Or maybe I'm amused by the "quirks" and don't think of them as flaws until my excellent critique partners point them out!

    Anyway, I have The Emotion Thesaurus on my desk right now and I love it! I would love to win one of the other two! Thanks for being here.

  65. Hi Angela:

    Thanks for your in-depth response. I really support your comment that:

    “…in fact, all romances should contain an element of "the partner filling a lack."

    I think it is ideal when both the hero and heroine become, with each other’s actions, the right person for each other. That type of relationship should last for the whole HEA.

    As I read your comment, I kept having Ruth’s story run through my mind. In “The Lawman's Second Chance” the hero has had a wife recently die of breast cancer while the heroine actually has had breast cancer. The hero believes he could never survive the loss of another wife to breast cancer and, even if he could, he could never allow his young children go through seeing another mother die of the same disease.

    The heroine, who was abandoned when she got her breast cancer, does not want to put another man through the same stress. She does not fault the man! (Already I love her.)

    This may be the most emotionally powerful romances I’ve read. I’m still waiting to where I can calm down enough to write a review worthy of the story. The ARC on this is a masterwork.

    Oh, yes, your comments made sense. This is a wonderful post today. Thanks.

  66. Enjoyed this post on hero's flaws. So helpful. Will bookmark.Thank you, Angela.

  67. That's right Janet, I didn't shoot anyone. I have torn a hole in the space-time Continuum.


  68. Aw, Vince, thank you for your kind words!!!!

    The best part about writing "The Lawman's Second Chance" is that the real Lisa, (who was 36 and a mother of four kids under ten when diagnosed) is doing well!

    And I get to mock her daily, and make her feel normal in "Ruthy-world"!!!!

    I loved writing that book, but I hated the reason behind it, Lisa's struggle to defeat a tough disease. Your words, your praise mean the world to me, my friend.

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. :)

    And I love that Tina found that recipe.... I will have to make this for the madding (and very young!!!) crowds around here on Superbowl Sunday.

    We'll get pics and share after!!!

  69. Tina: That recipe sounds yummy! Thanks for finding one. We don't have Costco here. :(

  70. HI Debra--so glad you followed the links. Seriously, thank you all for this great interaction. I have been eating, sleeping and breathing character flaws, attributes, wounds and fears for the past year, and it FEELS SO GOOD to let some of it out!

    @Tina, that sounds YUM. And easy. And I must be a boozer because I expected one of the ingredients to be a lemon cooler, haha!

    @Vince, I love that a fellow author's story here is the one you're talking about. Clearly it is a powerful story!

    @Pat, glad to help!

    @Ruth, I bet one of the reasons why the story connects so much with readers is that you know the circumstances that inspired the story, and so your own emotions are part of the mix. Whenever we can take our own world and put it into the novel, great things happens. :)

  71. Welcome, Angela! and thanks for this great post. I have the Emotion Thesaurus and am really excited about the other two books!

  72. Jenny, I'm glad you're going to have your surgery. I'm praying for you!

  73. Thanks everyone for the kind wishes. this time tomorrow it should be all over. I have alot of nervous energy today as a few clean areas will tell you. I didn't sleep last night so hoping I do get some sleep tonight. I think I am happy not to have much notice.

  74. Missy, glad the ET is a good writing buddy. I hope these two new books are helpful too :)

    Jenny, This is for your gallbladder? I am so happy for you. Years ago I was in the same boat, and waiting for surgery was agony. Finally I got in and had it taken out. My life improved so much, and food doesn't bother me any more. Wishing you a speedy recovery!

  75. Sorry I'm so late but this is a great post! A definite keeper!

    Jenny - glad to hear that you're going to have surgery so soon. Pray it will solve your health issues!

    Please enter me in the draw.

    Will try to read all the comments now! If I don't fall asleep before.


  76. Angela, you've been a terrific guest. Let us know when your new books come out and we'll have you back!!!

  77. Thanks Tina, and everyone! I had a lot of fun and it was great to see people discuss their writing.

    I will definitely be in touch, but it may be a while--these books take just a ton of research to put together so I'm guess we're looking at a year for the next ones. :)

    Thanks so much for hosting me and the giveaway. Wishing all the Seekers some beautifully written words and compelling characters created this week!


  78. Angela, I always learn so much when I read your posts. And your books…dang…so helpful. Thanks for all you do to help writers!