Your Flawed Protagonist

Today we’re moving on to another element of story: your protagonist

The Prompt

Write a story with the flawed protagonist

Tips

  • This is kind of a cheat because every protagonist should have a flaw, but today we’re going to focus on that.

  • Characters are interesting for many reasons. They can be interesting because we identify with them, because we don’t like them, because they’re better than us at something, because they have some special gift, many reasons. But they are not interesting if they are perfect.

  • Think about Luke Skywalker, the hero of the Star Wars original trilogy. He has a gift, but is really annoying at the beginning of the story. He’s whiny. He’s immature. He’s rash. He puts other people in danger, all because he’s bored. All of which means that he has an interesting character arc on which to travel.

  • In the Amelia Peabody mysteries Amelia is ahead of her time: a brilliant Egyptologist, she’s rich, she has a fabulous husband, she’s very confident… she’s also hysterically self delusional, and fails to admit any of her own faults, while pointing out those of everyone else, at all times. She is a fun character, not because of the stuff she’s good at, but because of the stuff she doesn’t even realize she’s bad at.

  • Who can you write about today? Write a list of their attractive qualities and then give them one big weakness. It doesn’t have to be a fatal, heroic flaw that’s going to cause their downfall, although it can be if that’s what you want to write. It could be something as simple as Hermione Granger, being a bit of a pain in the neck, even though she’s so clever. In the first Harry Potter book, that flaw isolates her from her friends at the very moment when she needs them.

  • Concoct a scenario for your character where they get to show off their good talents but where their flaw is going to cause them problems. Then, write your way out of it.

  • If you get stuck at any point simply start a new paragraph with the words “And because of that…” and continue writing. Do this at least three times, then resolve the situation and you’ll have a complete story.

  • Remember, use these tricks, and then clean them up in the rewrite. It’s not like you got anything else to do in the month of June, is it?

Leave a comment to tell us what flaw you chose for you protagonist. Got any tips on how to keep writing as we head in to the middle of the month? Share them here!

17 thoughts on “Your Flawed Protagonist”

    1. Are all your stories 100 words this month? I’m not setting myself limits, whether upper or lower, and most of mine are around 500 (except the Drabble where I did do 100).

      Today I did a bit of military fiction with a character who can’t stop swearing at the wrong times.

      1. Yes, it’s what I do. A 100-word story a day – it’s a bit mad, tbh. But it leaves me with plenty of time for the novel, or to make sure the kiddo doesn’t starve etc.

        Your story sounds fun but your poor character probably gets into lots of trouble…

  1. Stating out in the positive, I found myself going to the opposite side of the spectrum and changing to a character whose biggest flaw is that she seems to have no positive traits. This is a pleasant change for me in my normal characterizations, so I’m going with it.
    We hear her pompously giving advice to a neighbor who’s trying to figure out where to store some of his belongings. Her ‘twitness’ sends out eye rolls from both the man and his male roommate- who acts like an understated narrator. Ultimately all the main character seems to offer is sex. If this were a novel or a longer story, some true value would have shown itself in her personality. But just for fun in this little scenario, I kept it as is.

  2. Didnt use this prompt today, because no time. But I couldnt post on Victory Dance, so wanted to post here. I wrote a short short story. A boy in school asking his heart throb to go with him to the proverbial soda shop. Just under the wire. But didnt want to miss a day. 🙂

  3. You do such a good job of creating rounded characters in a short space. I can feel their history and a hint about how they spend their everyday lives. The only moment of confusion I had was when you mentioned “his wife and daughter”. I didn’t know which person the wife an daughter belonged to (P or the friend).

    1. Thanks. These two have been side characters in the last two books, so I’m excited to be working on their story finally. I’ll have to make sure to go in and clear that up later(it’s the friend’s wife and her daughter, though).

  4. Started out with one idea, but then the characters took over and painted me into a corner. Took me all day to figure it out, but I hope I’ve painted my way out.
    Ben had thousands of follows, but Chrissy & Mike loved him.
    5,000 Likes < 2 Loves
    http://wp.me/p1AR9N-2Rh

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