Mistake 42: Not Recognizing Your Characters’ Needs and Flaws

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit

Why this is a mistake: As noted before, characters are not walking
around on Maslow’s fifth level of self-actualization. Often, like real people, they are not consciously aware of why they are doing what they are doing. They give a reason, but it’s not the real reason. Recognize that characters are acting out of need, and that they have a corresponding blind spot associated with that need.

The solution:
Be aware of the triangle of traits, needs, and flaws. Every character trait has a corresponding need and flaw associated with it. A need is something a character has to have and can’t control.

For each of your characters, then, list a trait, a need, and a flaw. For example, if a key trait for a character is that she is loyal, the need she has is to be trusted. The corresponding flaw or blind spot associated with this might be that she is gullible. If a character is decisive, she has a need to be in charge, and her flaw/blind spot could be that she’s impetuous.

You might also want to create this list for yourself. Identify what you feel is the strongest part of your own character and then consider the corresponding need and flaw. This will help you pinpoint your personal
blind spot and potential flaw both in your writing and in your business dealings.

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