05 September 2011

My Politically Incorrect Shoes (And My “Character” Flaws)

Check out those shoes right there.

Everyone, meet my moccasin boots. These are my favorite shoes of all time. No, they may not be entirely glamorous, but they are comfortable, look great with jeans, and (to me) they are a timeless classic.
And the store they came from has a majorly politically incorrect name.

The name?

The Indian Store. I know, I know. It should be…The Native American Store. Right? That’s more politically correct, right?

Well, that just isn’t its name. But, I have to tell you this is my favorite store to buy these boots. This little flaw doesn't stop me from loving these shoes...

Why does this matter?  Well, I’m trying to develop a character and I am having the hardest time developing her negative points. I have no idea why. It is extremely important to have a likeable main character, but what’s likeable about a character that says the right things at the right time in the right way? Who always has an opinion that’s acceptable by the masses? Who uses all the right politically correct words?   No one likes that person, no matter how “nice” they are.

And why am I having so much trouble? You see, this plot line is shaped by the fact that she goes into a certain situation naive, and a little too trusting (I know, it doesn’t sound fascinating…yetbut it’s barely started and I don’t want to give anything away…so just go with it for now…) So I get an image in my head of this character having very few, not-so-obvious “character flaws.” But, that’s not quite honest, though, is it?  I mean, I’m a nice person and I never want to hurt someone intentionally (and if I do, I want to know!). I’m also very genuine, and not phony at all. Like everyone else, though, I’m not perfect. I can also be very competitive (and if you are competitive, or know someone that is…that doesn’t always come out in the “nicest” way) and highly opinionated once you get me going on a certain topic (foot-in-mouth disease, anyone?).

I do know that our character flaws shape us as much as the other parts of who we are. No, we don’t like those negative parts coming out front and center when we first meet someone. And like any character you meet for the first time in a book, most of us don’t like to following along with a main character that’s unkind, mean, and completely unlikeable. But wouldn’t you get tired of a character that’s too a little too nice?
I mean…didn’t we all enjoy reading about Becky Sharp and her quick tongue and “I-don’t-care-what-people-think” attitude in Vanity Fair?

How about Anne from Anne of Green Gables and her gutsy, outgoing, and self-assured personality that you can’t help but adore?

But then again, not all characters have to be like this…just like not all real people are like these two characters. One of my other favorite female characters, Rebecca, from the book, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, resembles my own character’s personality the most. In the book, she is courted by Maxim de Winter (a very well off, recent widower) and almost overnight, becomes his new wife. Throughout the book she is compared to the former Mrs. de Winter and deals with her own self-doubt and insecurity, while also struggling with the curiosity of what really happened to her husband’s former wife.

Rebecca does not resemble Becky or Anne in the slightest, but all three of these characters reveal their own “character” flaws in the book. Not one of these characters were liked by everyone that was around them in the story.

So, how about my character? Something about her is imperfect. Something that rounds her out to being a real person instead of a robot, clone of a human being.

Because sometimes our characters (and us too) can be a bad friend…

Or be pushed too far…

Or talk down to someone (and/or) have a wicked tongue….

Or just be downright scary…

Carrie Gets Angry
Carrie — MOVIECLIPS.com

Most importantly, though, I’m inspired because I finally feel like I am getting a handle on a new story. A new idea. I’ll figure out. I know I will.

So, readers, how about you? How do you figure out your “character” flaws?


  1. Not being a writer, I fortunately am not faced with this challenge/dilemma/problem! I am, however, looking forward to finding out what your protagonist's character flaw is going to be :)

  2. I think this is a great post. I'm just starting to write fiction myself and have the same problem. Love the movie examples you used!

  3. I am not a writer. The most I can hope for is the distinction of being a rambler. I do have to say I love the moccasins. I have always wanted a pair.

  4. @Desiree - Ha ha!! Me too!!! :) I hope I figure it out soon!

    @Andrea -  thanks! I loved choosing just the right one!  Good luck with yours!

    @Ruth - ha ha, rambler...writer...not too much of a difference! :) buy a pair!! I have a link to the store on my post!

  5. Hope you still want us old friends too.LOL Love the post, but I haven't quite figured anything out just yet. My character has trouble communicating and her imagination gets the best of her from time to time but it is the only way she can deal with some of the trouble she gets into. Good luck with everything Nicole!

  6. I think you have your "answer". Make her politically incorrect. Why not? Oh and I used to LIVE in my moccasins that I bought on an Indian reservation-oops, I mean Native American Reservation.

  7. I don't think character 'flaws' necessarily have to be negative.
    What about the independent, self-reliant heroine who thinks she can handle everything herself, without anyone else's help? Could be admirable, but at the same time, it could mean she's not willing to share a problem with e.g. the hero which then frustrates him.
    It's a postive trait which can actually become a 'negative' one.

  8. @The Desert Rocks - I love that type of "character flaw"!!! It would make great fun for the reader, especially! Good luck with yours!!

    @Anonymous - Good idea!! I'm getting close to figuring out what would match the story perfectly too!! Ah, I still live in mine! I'm gonna be on my fourth pair next round!

    @Paula Martin - Good point--especially because that's almost exactly how I am. Ha ha...actually, that's a great idea, and I forget that could be something that can get in the character's way! Ooh, sooo working on that idea!!

  9. One criticism I've received from a couple of readers is that the love interest in WIP #1 is too perfect. Yet he's not. They argue that his flaws are flaws that don't matter. Hmmm ... what matters? He's perfect for the mc but he wouldn't be perfect for her best friend.

    What counts as a character flaw that counts anyway?

    Ever played the game Apples to Apples? Someone suggested taking random character traits and using them for characters in her story. I thought that was brilliant.

  10. It can be difficult to figure out a character flaw especially after reading your post. I never considered all the factors that one might have to think about.
    I tend to get bored with stagnant characters and I need to be hooked from the beginning. (that's just me).

  11. I try and just let the flaws "occur." Maybe not the best way, some writers "plan," but I find that stifles my characters. Good luck, Nicole!! Sounds like you've come up with an interesting one!!

  12. You are AWESOME! I loved this whole entry, and laughed and related. I have a whole soap box about politically correctness, which I won't go into here- but just know I agree with you.

    I'm following you from MBC. I'd love for you to come on over and follow me too at www.thegleemansbaby.blogspot.com

    As a writer, you may even be interested in my writer's prompt meme on Fridays. Please check it out!


  13. Found you from the Epic Adventures of a Modern Mom blog hop...I am a new follower, looking forward to reading more of your posts. Hope you can stop by my blog sometime and check it out.

  14. Hi, I found you from the Epic Adventures of a Modern Mom blog hop. I am a new follower as well.
    I love to write (not just my ramblings on my blog http://my2centswithagrainofsalt.blogspot.com/ but also on my book. My character's have several flaws but I'm still working on everything. I find after a while of reading and rereading, I get bored with writing and put it to the side for a while or a few years. Ugh!
    Anyway, great blog. I hope you will visit mine soon. :)

  15. @Donna K Weaver - good point! Do character flaws have to be ones that "matter"? And what does that mean anyway? I'm thinking my character's biggest flaw is that even though she's naive, she also questions "too much," which isn't a flaw, but ends up becoming a character problem later on in the book! 

    Good idea for apples to apples by the way!!

    @Optimistic Mom- me too!!! I hate boring characters. Perfection is dull. It's the dysfunctional stuff that makes us all interesting!! :)

    @tracikenworth - thanks!! That isn't a bad approach that you have. I may end having the same. So many characters have personalities that just emerge on their own!!

    @Brae Craig - thank you!!ha ha...I'm with you on the political correctness part! Don't get me started!! :)
    Checking out your blog now!

    @Terri - thank you! Following now!

    @Elizabeth - I'm the same way! I usually like to take breaks in between stuff. I'm checkin out our blog!

  16. Not having written any fiction yet, I don't really have any useful suggestions, but I understand how that could be a struggle! You'll get there. I have to tell you that I love the story of your boots and how they are your favorite! It reminds me of that movie with Sandra Bullock, "All About Steve", where she always wears those ridiculous red boots. And she finally explains why she loves them so much, "Because they make my toes feel like 10 friends on a camping trip!" LOL. That sounds like a pretty good explanation to me. Loved your post! :)

  17. Excellent post--I often find when I'm writing about my main character--it is hard not to want to attribute any flaws to that character--and I sometimes can struggle with this. Great post. I know you'll work it out! Cheers, Jenn.

  18. Hey... good for you! It sounds like you have a handle on what you are looking for anyway, and that's half the battle! :-)

    I am a new follower from the Weekend Blog Hop Til You Drop! I write a humorous blog about all things motherhood at Misadventures in Motherhood. Hope you can drop sometime and have a wonderful weekend!

    Smiles, Jenn

  19. I love the shoes.
    New follower from the sits girls forum.


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