When Weakness is Simply Weakness

by limebirdamber

It’s tempting to want to give our characters everything they need to overcome the obstacles we throw their way quickly and easily. The flaws they have, we want to fix them all. However, it’s a flaw that makes a human loveable and it’s the flaws in our characters that make them relatable.

Over-powering main characters can make them boring. There is no chance of them losing the battle they come to, inward or outward. The tension that comes from not knowing if the character will win, and especially when they don’t win at first, keeps the reader turning the page.

Sometimes, weaknesses become strength or endearing qualities in a character. This isn’t necessarily bad, but sometimes a weakness needs to really impact how a character works.

As I thought about this, I thought about the main character in my novel. It starts off with her drinking copious amounts every night. When she meets the time travelers and is swept into their fiasco, she stopped drinking with no consequence. The amount and time she’d been drinking however, she would be experiencing withdrawal symptoms. I did remember to make them all get beat up quite a bit though. It’s ok to make mistakes like this, because that’s how a person learns.

My weakness is being overcome. 😉

I also know I need to rework my character’s weaknesses, and give them ones that don’t leave at the end of the novel. Things wrapped up quite nicely, maybe too nicely. Of course, I may decide when I begin my edits that things aren’t so bad how they are.

Weaknesses are just weaknesses sometimes, and we need to be careful not to over-power our loves.

Are you prone to over-powering your characters? Do you think weakness is important? How do you deal with this in your work?

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29 Comments to “When Weakness is Simply Weakness”

  1. Reblogged this on Conversing With Novels and commented:
    Wheee! My limey post.

  2. Yay, my first one in a while. xoxo

  3. It depends upon the character. I like to see a character overcome their weakness during the course of a story, but in some cases, the weakness drags on too long and I’m thinking, “Arrrrrghhh! Get some nerve already!” But it’s heartwarming to see when a character finally stands up to whatever the flaw may be and I end up cheering them on.

    • I agree with that. I like how my characters have grown. I worry about giving them too much growth though. There is a happy medium to set.

  4. It’s okay for a character to overcome a weakness in a believable way. Still, one must be careful not to dehumanize a character.
    Blessings – Maxi

  5. I think I bundle ‘weakness’ and ‘personality’ under the same heading. Every character in a book (main characters, supporting, villains..) has a weakness, which often gets bundled with whatever their part in the story is.

    If a character didn’t suffer from weakness, they wouldn’t be the same character.

    • Without weakness, what personality do we have, right? It’s what makes us who we are. Sometimes we need to overcome our faults. I think this reminds people who read they can do it too.

      • True. Some weaknesses are overcome. Other weaknesses can stay with a character forever.. and that keeps them defined as who they are. Anyone close to them will learn to love them despite the weakness 🙂

      • Love is only possible when you see a person’s fault. It makes a full picture of someone, not an idealized god figure.

  6. There is always that danger. All of us have our good and bad points. I tend to write from the Jodi Picoult viewpoint, although not so much with my first novel. The stuff what follows, yes.

    With the first, the novel starts with the protagonist in the throes of a panic attack, a predisposition what threatens through the novel. She also suffered a horrific childhood injury and walks with a slight limp. Yet another part of her meets challenges and overcomes.

    • Sounds like you have a good balance going on. 🙂 My protag has anxiety too, and she powers through by the climax. However, she isn’t very useful in combat which is the center of the climax of the book and has to be protected, which puts the others in danger. She never becomes a good fighter.

  7. Getting my characters to admit to weaknesses is one of my weaknesses as a writer. Just like most of us, they don’t like to publicize their flaws. I’ve still got to work on this in my drafts!

    • It will come easier I think as you work on it more. I also think that as your characters admit their flaws, youll be able to, too!

  8. This is an interesting post Amber. That’s one of the things that annoys me when I watch films, if someone goes from having an extreme weakness to an extreme strength in a short time – it’s fine for people to overcome weaknesses but the journey has to be a believable one.

    • I think movies have a shorter time frame to work with. They may need to throw in a very emotional or disturbing to the character scene.

      The journey is the whole part of life, and since novels are lives, it is the point of the novel. Or at least i think so.

  9. Weakness is a strong point in character development 😉 I think for characters to be relatable to readers they must have a flaw, or weakness–even the macho heros who save the day. What I find difficult is mapping out the journey where the character overcomes his/her weakness. In real life, there is a lot of back and forth play, sometimes over a span of years. As writers, we have to show that evolution in about 300 pages. To boot, we need to show a believable journey without seeming contrived or predictable. I’m always messing around with that in my work.

    Great post.

  10. I get frustrated when a character suddenly has the wherewithal to overcome everything. I like some realism in my fiction.

    • Realism is good sometimes, but I wonder if I go overboard with it. Like making sure there are times my characters eat and sleep, since they are in a big whirlwind fight time.

  11. This is wonderful advice, and applies to life in general; perhaps we should apply it to ourselves and our family and friends too, and just accept weakness as simply weakness, nolthing more sinister? Keep writing, I love your words too 🙂

    • Thank you 🙂 I agree it would be a good attitude to adopt when dealing with people. It might be difficult at first, though.

  12. This is a problem that I’ve had with my own characters. The initial problems that they have are sometimes forgotten as I continue forward. I’ve taken to writing a timeline of their flaws and strengths, creating a chart of where they are during the timeline of the novel. It helps me keep more on track with this.

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