Is your hero perfect? Or is it possible that your villain is overly flawed? You can improve plot with character development by adding quirks, flaws and foibles. Often in character development, we create nearly perfect beings; or go in the other way and write caricatures that are almost cartoon- like with too many flaws. At times, characters that are over-the-top can be fun, but if over-used, the traits can feel tiresome, so strive for balance.
Screenwriters Offer Enhanced Reality
One technique to infuse your characters with a genuine personality is to borrow from your own life. We offer something more vivid than the real world, not virtual reality, rather enhanced reality. Ask yourself if your characters feel like real people, if not, lend them some of the reality around you.
It’s counterintuitive, but often what makes people interesting are our quirks, flaws and foibles – to a point. Flawless people are usually hiding something, like the Stepford Wives. Also, good habits are rarely as interesting as bad habits. List three things about yourself that could be termed mannerisms, traits or foibles – whether you like or dislike them is beside the point. Most of us can easily identify our own imperfections, whether physical habits, personality traits, or even vocal tics. Think then of those around you friends who talk to themselves, lisp, are overly trusting, speak loudly to foreigners, bite the ends of their hair, are always late, clean compulsively, cackle loudly, drink excessively.
Characters Need Flaws
Character flaws make humans unique and can be used to create sympathy and empathy for a character, adding depth and dimension, connecting that person to the real world. Audiences relate to imperfect people, those we identify with, as well as people we recognize in our own lives.
Adding emotional flaws to your character is fun, torture them with the things about people you know that drive you insane. It’s easy to look to those close to you, select a few traits that drive you nuts and amplify them a bit. Or chose some emotional flaws that can swing from endearing to annoying, depending on who they are with and what the situation is. Imagine certain attributes of the character and go opposite, for instance, a firefighter with fear of fires who’s actually a coward, or a judge who’s a compulsive liar. Contradicting the role that a particular character is to inhabit offers opportunities to turn the heat up on them in many situations.
When a character reveals their physical flaws, they are immediately open to scrutiny and therefore, judgment. Therefore, that judgment offers a moment in which that person can repel or draw empathy, sometimes both. These traits can be used to open characters up to outsiders, moving the plot forward interruptions that might be useful. Examples of physical habits and flaws could include anything from sly nose picking, favoring a limp from an old injury, earlobe pulling, a twitch, or random athletic stretching.
Movies Versus Real Life
Wait a minute, I want a larger than life heroine who’s perfect! Ok, maybe, but since when was perfect all that interesting? Movies are reality with the boring parts snipped out, therefore, add flaws and foibles to develop your characters in a way that interests and amuses you, selectively use reality to add conflict and drama.
How To Improve Plot With Character Development
There are several ways to improve plot with character development:
- Pick just a quirk for your hero, love interest, or villain
- What reaction do other characters have to it
- Use it to force that character to act
- Use this forced action move the plot
- If the trait is fixed or resolved, will it change the plot
Character Flaws are Seasoning
In conclusion, the best way to improve plot with character development is to imbue your hero and villain with flaws, habits and personality traits that will force them to act. These actions can be used to move the story forward, to distract an audience, create distance and disgust or spur empathy. Experiment with a few of these on a character to see how it works, but remember that tics, habits and foibles are seasoning on top of a solidly constructed character.