The idea of the “perfect” person is intriguing. The perfect hair, job, family — the list goes on!
Nonetheless, reading about perfect characters is boring! Characters tend to be much more interesting when they have that one (or more than one!) fatal flaw that adds to their appeal.
But what is a character flaw and what are some of the common character flaws you can add to your next novel? Check out our character flaws list to help you determine what flaws work best for your characters.
What is a Character Flaw?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a character flaw is defined as “an imperfection or weakness and especially one that detracts from the whole or hinders effectiveness.”
Flaws are what make a character interesting. They help us relate more deeply to characters (because we’re all flawed, right?) and can even make characters more attractive to the reader.
Obviously, we expect our antagonists to have notable flaws, but our heroes should have a few too just to make them seem more human. Developing flaws is a big part of how to make a unique character.
Flaws for characters are also key to creating the conflict that drama is made of, so you should devote lots of time and care when determining what those flaws are going to be.
To help you in your brainstorming process, here is a character flaws list for you to consider as you work on crafting the characters that will star in your next work of fiction.
How To Make a Unique Character for Your Book
To craft a fascinating original character, you will need to create the right balance between their strengths and their flaws. A strong heroic character has positive personality traits, abilities, and goals that make us like and root for them — but they also have flaws that jeopardize their success.
Good “villains,” on the other hand, are often the inverse, possessing deep flaws and selfish aims that are then balanced by a few good characteristics or motives, so that the reader maintains some sympathy and interest in the character.
Complete List of Character Flaws
Take a look at our list of common character flaws, which covers several different types of flaws for characters, to get some inspiration for your writing.
What counts as a physical flaw is often very much in the eye of the beholder. This character flaws list covers looks, injuries, abnormalities, and conditions that many would consider to be physical flaws and imperfections, but views may vary.
- Hygiene. And we mean really terrible hygiene. Picture greasy hair and the body odor from a high school locker room.
- Scars. Third-degree burns can leave a mark on the face and neck. Long scars across the cheek are a mysterious addition to your character’s backstory.
- Missing limbs. Your character may be missing two fingers from the right hand because of a work injury.
- Eyesight. Extremely poor eyesight can be a major flaw, especially if they’re stuck driving at night or sitting in the back of a classroom.
- Weight. Your character could be morbidly obese.
- Injury. Your character could be paraplegic due to war injury.
- Posture. Leave the hunched back of your character a secret or discuss what caused this arch.
- Tremors. Maybe your character has severe tremors in their left hand from a recent traumatic brain injury.
- Amputation. An amputated arm from a childhood illness is a great way to introduce backstory.
- Acne. Your high school character may be dealing with cystic acne all over their face on top of that broken heart.
- Hairy. A hairy back or chest can add to the image your readers are conjuring in their minds.
- Warts. Facial warts add a hint of imagery to your character.
- Teeth. Several brown and rotting teeth are a clear indicator of hygiene too.
- Mouth. A cleft palate can be a unique feature for your character.
- Ears. One ear may be substantially larger than the other.
- Eyes. A glass eye that is a different color than the other eye is a unique character flaw for a mysterious character.
- Legs. Bowed legs are becoming a more common way of depicting the walk of a character too!
- Beard. Describe your character’s age using their thin, patchy beard with gray streaks.
- Nose. Maybe your character has developed a crooked nose from that time they broke their nose in college.
- Eyebrows. A thick, black unibrow is a very distinct feature.
- Birthmark. Imagine a red birthmark on the forehead in the shape of Alaska.
- Feet. A clubbed foot is a birth defect that can set your character apart.
- Limp. A pronounced limp due to one leg being longer than the other can be a staple descriptor.
- Moles. Your character might have several large, hairy moles on their back.
- Fingernails. Chewed fingernails can also be an indication of the anxiety bubbling under the surface of your character.
The most interesting character flaws are usually the ones that pertain to personality. In some cases, they may be the product of genetics or upbringing, but ultimately these are traits that the reader will consider to be the character’s responsibility. This character flaws list highlights the kinds of flaws that most greatly affect the character’s attitudes and actions.
- Belittling. Your character may belittle anyone they view as intellectually inferior.
- Arrogant. Draco Malfoy is a prime example of an arrogant character. He never admits his mistakes and often acts holier-than-thou.
- Narcissistic. Sometimes characters are overly obsessed with their looks. You’ll find them staring into every reflective surface they can find.
- Workaholic. This may be someone with no social life as a result of work or a workaholic who doesn’t make enough time for family.
- Materialistic. The Great Gatsby has a character that has a particular taste for expensive material possessions — Daisy Buchanan.
- Humorous. Your character could think their jokes are hilarious (and they are definitely not).
- Controlling. Some characters may be very controlling of their spouse and children. This can be anything from where they go to what they wear every day.
- Racist. Your character may display gross racial prejudices.
- Easily-Angered. Ever met someone who has gotten angry at the slightest provocation?
- Impulsive. That one character you have may be all too eager to take unnecessary risks and lead the other characters right into danger.
- Competitive. All they do is “win, win, win no matter what!” Competitive individuals always have to win at everything.
- Complainer. These characters find a way to complain excessively about every minor inconvenience.
- Harasser. Your worst character may sexually harass people.
- Unsupportive. Emotional support for friends and family is not this character’s strong suit.
- Pathological Liar. Your main character may just be prone to lying all the time.
- Inconsiderate. Sometimes characters enjoy the sound of their own voice. They’ll typically talk over people and rarely listen.
- Critical. A character may be quick to criticize others but can’t take criticism. This is borderline hypocritical as well.
- Adulterous. This character would constantly cheat on their spouse. Think Anna Karenina.
- Vindictive. Some characters specialize in holding a grudge over even the smallest slights.
- Greedy. You’d be surprised how many tight-fisted and ungenerous characters are actually very wealthy.
- Self-righteous. Mix this with a judgemental mindset and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
- Bully. This character picks on the weakest and most vulnerable people.
- Impetuous. That character who makes rash decisions with little information may just save the day (or not!).
- Negligent. There’s something so frustrating about a willfully ignorant character.
- Offensive. Your character may make offensive “jokes” about anyone different than them.
- Threatening. Resorting to violently threatening people who get on their nerves could add a bit of intrigue to an otherwise calm character.
- Deceptive. Hard work is pushed to the side for the character who cheats to get ahead of every opportunity they get.
- Sycophant. Characters may act like a suck-up to anyone with influence or power.
- Inhumane. Characters who behave cruelly towards animals may quickly become the villain of your story.
- Paranoid. Around every corner, your character is paranoid that everyone is out to get them.
- Exploiter. If your story is full of kind characters, one who takes advantage of others’ kindness is an ideal contrast.
- Hypocrite. Add in a religious hypocrite who doesn’t practice what they preach.
- Renege. Your character may keep breaking promises to loved ones.
- Gullible. These characters are ready to believe anything.
- Flake. Maybe your character continuously lets friends down by always being late.
- Unethical. In an office setting, it can add to the storyline to have a character lacking in professional ethics.
- Reckless. Reckless drivers are notorious for rising action in a plot that leads to a tragedy.
- Suspicious. Characters may be suspicious of others for no reason.
- Unforgiving. Refusing to forgive people’s mistakes can lead to a lot of baggage.
- Irrational. Not every character has to think rationally.
- Slacker. Whether you’re writing about a teenager or an unambitious side character in the workspace, being lazy and unhelpful is a highly-rated character flaw.
- Indomitable. That one infuriating character may be convinced they are always right.
- Addict. This character may abuse drugs or alcohol.
- Explosive. Your main character may get physically destructive when upset.
- Disrespectful. That one character in the friend group may behave rudely toward service and retail workers.
- Squander. Not every character has to be financially stable. Some may be financially irresponsible and in debt but still trying to make it work.
- Possessive. As they watch their significant other greet a friend, your character may become unreasonably jealous of said significant other.
- Dolt. The mindless airhead act may be just that — an act.
- Immoral. Not every character has a moral compass.
- Pretentious. This character may stick their nose up at other characters they feel are beneath them.
- Passive-Aggressive. Passive-aggressive insults may commonly spout from your main character’s mouth.
- Pessimist. This negative character is quick to judge and always believes the worst in people.
- Nagging. Wanting things done their way, your character may constantly nag people.
- Sadistic. This character enjoys embarrassing others just a little too much.
- Prideful. Pride and Prejudice’s very own Mr. Darcy had quite the prideful streak.
- Rebellious. With or without a cause, a rebellious character may get the protagonist in a bit of trouble every now and then.
- Disloyal. Your character may turn their back on the people they once called friends.
- Unfriendly. Generally unpleasant to be around, an unfriendly character is a common occurrence.
- Perfectionist. To an extreme amount, a perfectionist character flaw may cause a few problems for other characters.
- Argumentative. Your character may love to pick a fight simply for the thrill of a fight.
- Childish. Immaturity in older age happens, and it may just be the perfect character flaw of your main character.
- Manipulative. Manipulative characters will go to no end to get what they want.
- Stubborn. Standing your ground can sometimes stem from pure stubbornness. Little Women’s Jo March understands this.
Good Character Flaws
Not all flaws are created equal, of course. Some character flaws are more like lovable imperfections. Technically what the character is doing may be wrong or inappropriate, but it’s often with a well-meaning motive. Or it may just be a personality trait that seems inconsequential enough that ends up being more endearing than enraging. In this character flaws list, here are some examples of good character flaws to consider:
- Tease. That one uncle in the story about family may poke fun at everybody but is an equal opportunity offender.
- Storyteller. Creative characters may be skilled at telling entertaining but largely invented stories about their past.
- Spender. Your financially irresponsible character may max out credit cards buying dinner and drinks for friends. It’s out of the goodness of their heart, but it doesn’t help pay rent.
- Kind-Hearted. How can your character say no to the puppy dog eyes? They just keep taking in stray animals despite their spouse’s constant objections.
- Vain. Your character may spend a large time primping and looking in the mirror too much.
- Cusser. Swearing like a sailor comes to life in your character that swears excessively.
- Smoker. A side character that smokes but is always trying to quit may be a constant companion to your main character. Or maybe you’ll write a situation like Augustus and his unlit cigarettes in John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.
- Tenacious. Synonym for “hero,” this character flies off the handle if they see someone bullying another person.
- Drunkard. This character drinks too much but is somehow always the life of the party anyway.
- Thoughtless. Your tactless character may not think twice when sharing criticism or bad news.
- Nosy. This character may stick their nose in other people’s business but out of concern.
- Dimwit. Not every character has to be the absolutely perfect 4.0 student.
- Directionally-Challenged. Ever confused left from right? Your character likely does this all the time with their really bad sense of direction.
- Indecisive. The smallest things can sometimes be the hardest to choose from.
- Sweet-Tooth. Don’t be afraid to let your character indulge in their weakness for eating really unhealthy food.
- Attached. Moving on from an ex can be challenging. Your character may still be obsessed over an ex who still has their heart.
- Steadfast. Characters may have really eccentric religious or political beliefs. This may even be the whole reason this character befriends another.
- Robin Hood. A Robin Hood (or the Robin Hood!) steals from the rich but uses it to help someone less fortunate.
- Anxious. Your character may deal with extreme social anxiety and is really nervous around people. Cue the love interest who helps introduce them to new people.
- Clumsy. A clutz adds a little bit of humor in the mix, as long as they don’t get too hurt!
- Superstitious. Superstition has a way of saving characters from time to time.
Avoid a Flawed Publishing Process
Your characters may have some serious flaws, but your book shouldn’t! Let your characters and all their flaws shine through without the distraction of typos or misprints.
Once you’ve completed your book, it’s time to contact the professionals. Let Gatekeeper Press help you through the many different aspects of the editing, publishing, and distribution process so that everything goes smoothly. Your developed characters are worth the investment! Learn about all the services available to help you get a great finished product out into the world.