4) Character Flaws and Merits

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Athene Perthro

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Notice I put flaws first here. Both in writing and roleplaying, a common mistake is having the merits outweigh the flaws. Everyone has good things about them, talents and skills, and this is an important part of any character, but what makes readers relate to them are the flaws and weaknesses.

People can't relate to perfection. In fact, "perfect" characters tend to irritate most people. So unless that's what you're going for, it's best to take balance into consideration. For example, which X-Man is more popular? Cyclops "Mr. Perfect" or Wolverine with the attitude problem? Most people are more fond of Wolverine because his temperment make him more interesting and easier to relate to.

Skills, abilities, strengths, can all be overdone. You can overdo it with flaws as well, but instead of being more distant the character usually becomes comic relief instead. Exaggerated flaws also move the character away from realism. Balance is the key and though your story/character may be on the more fantastical side of things, *knowing* the balance will help keep you on track for the direction you want to take your character in.

Take, for example, a vampire. Vampires come with a list of typical merits (strength, immortality, shapeshifting, ect.) and flaws (fear of crosses, inability to stand sunlight, no reflection, ect.) depending on what traditions you're going by. Personality flaws can spice things up. Say the vampire is also scared of the dark, or gets ill at the sight of blood. Maybe they're picky about the type of blood they consume, or they're not very good at covering up the undead identity around mortals. Maybe they need glasses, or have a pet peeve about vampire stereotypes. The more difficult things are for your character one way or another, the more interested people will be.

Flaws give us challenges that force us to be creative and get around them in order to progress.

Flaws provide much needed conflict, and along with merits are a natural part of what makes your character special and unique. Don't be afraid to look for trouble. Trouble is what keeps things interesting.

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