Too many modern books are keen on emphasizing all the postive traits of their main characters. In contrast, their flaws pale, making the character lifeless and almost otherwordly. While this worked on my three years ago, my reading prefrences have matured and I’ve prefered books that featured books with realisitc characters.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a perfect example of this. All his characters, in their own way, are painfully flawed, relatable, and have become a cultural phenomemon. They harbor the flaws that humans are often plauged with–ignorance, loneliness, and an obsession with material things. These flaws all lead these characters down their own paths, making this book wonderful to remember when writing character flaws.
First, the narrator, Nick Carraway. His flaw is more discreet but also manages to get him in a sticky mess. His complaciency and lack of personal will to say no lead him to the entagled mess of Gatsby and Daisy. It consumes his energy and attention while his bond buisness continues to decline. Nicks other flaws are equally as relatable to readers. He’s meek, not very manly, poorer than the rest. While those are not things to be considered flaws, in their society, he could be seen as less than a more extravagant man like Tom or Gatsby.
Second, the shining star of the book. The one and only Great Gatsby. I’ve been reading this book for school and the character of Gatsby always interested me because of how painfully blinded he is. After five years, a marriage and a child, Daisy is living a miserable but settled life. Her husband is a cheater and she is awefully sad. Gatsby, a distant love from another time, pops back into her life with the assumption that everything could reset, that his glimmering smile could erase those years he was gone.
It wasn’t realistic. That was the worst part. The whole book, we watch as Daisy leads to Gatsby’s demise. Everything he does, everything he’s ever earned, was to woe her back. But it wasn’t realistic. A woman couldn’t simply leave her husband in that time. Her daughter would remain in custody with her abusive father.
How could he expect Daisy to do this?
It’s simple. Human ignorance blinds us through and through. How we percive something is only through a single window, while life consists of a skyscraper of mirros and doors. I love and hate reading ignorant characters because it is the only time I can truly pity them.
These thematic statements can serve to be flaws. Characters can obsess over wealth, they can search for an unattable source of happiness, they can be ignorant, they can be helpless. Those are all viable flaws.
It’s all about being relatable. Look around, observe what flaws people have around. Examine how it harms them, why they have it. People study is vital for writing. It keeps your characters 3D.
I urge you to read the Great Gatsby (if you haven’t already) and examine how F. Scott Fitzgerald crafts his characters and created such a tsunami in American literature.