Character flaws

Character flaws are what make stories tick.

It’s the flaws that reveal themselves in each character in the beginning of a story that gives you a means to arc their transformation.

Unless of course you’re working on a tragedy that compounds the flaws so the character either doesn’t change or changes for the worse.

Below is a stack of them from annoying to dreadful to absolutely terrible. (Even good characters have bad flaws because, well, we’re all flawed, right. Shading a character with a flaw or two makes them human. Same goes for bad characters who need a sliver of good or a kind gesture to make them a little more real and keep audiences guessing.)

A minor flaw for one character can be a fatal flaw for another. (Amy’s vanity in “Little Women” is a small, amusing aspect of her character she matures out of. While for Narcissus, vanity proves deadly.)

Even a seemingly innocuous flaw can turn fatal if not recognized and kept in check. Subvert audiences’ expectations to keep them guessing.

Awkward – socially uneasy, uncomfortable.

Boring – dull, tedious, uninteresting.

Capricious – given to flights of fancy, impulsive behaviors.

Childish – silly, immature, innocent.

Clumsy – uncoordinated, fumbling, often accident-prone.

Foolish – lacking good judgment, common sense.

Gossipy – inclined to spread rumors, talk about others behind their backs.

Gullible – easily fooled, persuaded to believe something.

Humorless – having no sense of humor, solemn.

Lazy – unwilling to work, slothful.

Meek – overly gentle, submissive.

Mischievous – playfully troublesome, rascally, roguish.

Naïve – childlike, trusting, unworldly.

Obnoxious – highly irritating, unpleasant.

Prideful – having a lofty opinion of themselves, rarely admitting to being wrong.

Shallow – having few profound thoughts, caring only for insignificant things.

Skeptical – doubtful, disbelieving.

Spacey – having one’s head in the clouds, absent-minded.

Spoiled – bratty, self-centered as a result of overindulgence.

Stubborn – willful, headstrong, refusing to give up.

Tactless – not very nuanced, insensitive in dealings with others.

Vain – preoccupied with their physical appearance.

Adulterous – cheating on their partner or spouse.

Anxious – experiencing frequent nerves, apprehensions.

Apathetic – having little interest in life, lacking enthusiasm.

Arrogant – haughty, conceited, exaggeratedly self-important.

Belligerent – hostile and aggressive, even when unprovoked.

Bitter – resentful, unpleasant because of a past experience.

Cowardly – lacking the courage to stand up for what’s right.

Dishonest – lying, behaving in a deceitful manner, usually to take advantage of others.

Envious – wanting to possess what another has whether it’s a physical object or a character trait.

Greedy – always desiring more whether it’s food, wealth, attention, anything to their own detriment.

Hedonistic – indulging completely in the pursuit of pleasure.

Hubristic – excessively self-confident in one’s ideas, abilities.

Hypocritical – acting in opposition to their beliefs or proclamations about others, typically because they believe they’re above them.

Ignorant – possessing little practical knowledge, awareness of the world.

Incompetent – unable to perform basic tasks.

Inconsiderate – caring little for the feelings of others.

Judgmental – critical, disapproving, often in an outspoken way.

Lustful – overwhelmed with sexual desire.

Morally gray – neither good nor evil in a conventional sense, moral ambiguity.

Obsequious – so deferential and flattering as to be unsettling.

Possessive – overprotective, controlling.

Quixotic – overly idealistic, hindered by their own expectations.

Rigid – utterly inflexible in one’s principles, even when presented with reason to change.

Selfish – being solely concerned with their own needs and desires.

Short-tempered – quick to anger.

Spiteful – bitter, malicious.

Stingy – mean, ungenerous.

Stupid – showing little intelligence in their decisions or actions.

Vengeful – seeking ramifications for others as a form of revenge.

Weak-willed – timid, spineless.

Abusive – engaging in habitual, extreme cruelty or violence.

Bigoted – harboring fierce, immovable prejudices about a certain group.

Cruel – willfully causing pain and suffering to others.

Disloyal – failing to remain true to the person or entity they pledged their allegiance to.

Fanatical – extremely zealous to the point of delusion.

Intolerant – narrow-minded, unaccepting of others, sometimes to the point of violence.

Machiavellian – cunning, manipulative, unscrupulous in their schemes.

Manipulative – conniving, controlling others to get what they want.

Murderous – desiring to kill, homicidal.

Neglectful – failing to give proper care or attention to someone or something.

Obsessive – so consumed by a single subject that they cannot function normally.

Oppressive – brutally authoritarian toward a group of people considered lesser.

Paranoid – unusually suspicious, mistrustful, nervous that something bad will happen to them.

Remorseless – feeling no shame, regret, or sympathy when they’ve done something wrong.

Sadistic – taking pleasure in inflicting pain or humiliation upon others.

Self-destructive – acting in such a way as to destroy their own health and happiness.

Treacherous – deeply disloyal, traitorous, usually for personal gain.

Violent – viciously, physically harmful to others.

It’s the flaws that shapes our characters, however petty or brutal.

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