Ink-Stained Scribe

Why Flaws and Motivations Matter More

What's that? I can't hear you over my AWESOME!
Have you ever created a character so sublimely kickass you can't believe they somehow rocketed straight from your subconscious?

He's a white-haired elf who doesn't realize he's a half-demon, and comes back to save the undeserving village that ran him off, only to die a slow and painful death (with an epic death-speech that would make Mercutio weep in a fit of jealous awe) to teach us all a lesson in tolerance. Speaking of tolerance, he's gay! With a demon. Isn't he awesome?
No. He's not. Maybe the above description intrigues you, and that's not a bad thing. Most likely, you're rolling your eyes. How do I know? Because I haven't given you a reason to care. It isn't that there's anything wrong with being a soliloquizing half-elf-half-demon still fighting to protect the ones that would have him killed (and getting some action on the side), but as it stands he's boring.

Here's the deal: anyone can heap awesome skills and powers onto a character. Anyone can throw a sad back-story and a tragic ending at a character. Anyone can give their character a controversial trait. (May I add, here, that making a character gay is not a quirk, flaw, or free-pass on making your character unique?) I can't embolden, underline, italicize, and capitalize the following enough: NONE OF THIS MATTERS WITHOUT FLAWS OR MOTIVATION.

Stories aren't about how awesome a character is. It's about the problems--internal and external--those characters overcome, and why they overcome them. Sure, how they overcome those problems is an important aspect of the plot, but it's in the "why" that we readers find a reason to care.

Looking for even more tips on writing? Go check out freelance editor CA Marshall's blog for her special Editing Advent contest - you could win a free 10 page critique from someone who knows what she's talking about.