LESSON Weaknesses for Characters

Discussion in 'DEVELOPING CHARACTERS' started by Blind Hemingway, Nov 6, 2011.

  1. Workshop written by RORY.

    I think that while it's good to get into a character's mindset so thoroughly, it's not particularly healthy to not list down a character's weaknesses either. I think physically listing them down at least would help you keep in touch with the character even further on, when you refer back to your application. It helps to keep your character grounded, in that sense, when you look back at your app.

    Almost every RP requires some form of a weakness. Some people don't like to think of them, because roleplaying is their escape from their lives which have their weaknesses in them. Others come up with weirds approaches like peas or Alarice (Though she is a very powerful). If you look at your app sheet and see no weaknesses there, you might become so attached to your character that you might start god-moding. I mean, it's very natural for everyone, including myself, to want to be the best or the most perfect person around, but that's not realistic, nor is it fun for everyone else.

    This leads to a good question: What is a weakness?

    Using Wikipedia, they suggest: Weakness is a symptom used to describe a number of different physical or perceivedconditions, including: lack of muscle strength, malaise, dizziness or fatigue.

    Yes, I did underline perceived on purpose. The reason why, is a lot of times characters seem to have a lot of things wrong with them like being schizo, mentally unstable, can't remember their past, or any other number of soap opera drama reasons. This in of itself is not a bad thing; however, when not played properly (meaning doing basic research) these weaknesses tend to be highly romanticized and turned into making the character bad ass.

    A lot of people are afraid to give their characters serious failings, but to be honest it is these failings that make a character more interesting.

    So, I say the better term to use for weakness, is flaw.

    A character flaw is a limitation, imperfection, problem, phobia, or deficiency present in a character who may be otherwise very functional. The flaw can be a problem that directly affects the character's actions and abilities, such as a violent temper. Alternatively, it can be a simple foible or personality defect, which affects the character's motives and social interactions, but little else.

    Going further into this aspect, there are two sorts of flaws present in writing; minor and major. RPers tend to focus more on the majors.

    What's the difference?

    Minor flaws are imperfections which serve to distinguish the character in the mind of the reader / viewer / player / listener, making them memorable and individual, but otherwise does not affect the story in any way. This can be anything from having a thick accent, nervous reactions, etc. This is key to making a sympathetic character and breaking away from archetypes or stock weaknesses and over all should have a greater role in game play.

    Major flaws are a much more noticeable and important hindrance which actually impairs the individual, whether physically, mentally or morally. Sometimes major flaws are not actually negative per se (such as devout religious beliefs or a rigid code of honour), but are classified as such in that they often serve to hinder or restrict the character in some way. Most common example used in a lot of RPs are Schizophrenia and amnesia. Major falls need to serve as some form of direction for your character, like how a villain causes their downfall or a paladin questioning his code of honour.

    Moving away from the stock notions of amnesia, how about not being able to keep committed relationships? Or not being able to drive? Or being really smart and talented but being held back because everyone else says you suck? Also try to avoid being "bitchy" and "grumpy." This works well if one or two characters have this as an issue but if everyone has that angst issue, you'll end up with a game full of some very cranky people! If you wanna be more out there, if your character is over protective, how about extending that into be controlling?

    There are also tragic flaws, most often expressed in Greek lore of how a hero's pride and arrogance most often brings their own downfall and normally death; such as Jason abandoning Medea and ends up dying destitute and a lone under a dry rotting Argos. Unless a story calls for it, most RPs generally don't take this route unless your name is Asmo.

    In summary, remember: Don't play down your weaknesses or prevent them from ever coming up in play! Likewise, if your character is a mean sonofabitch but he is totally an angel around his friends, what's the point? Also make sure you try to balance things out between major and minor flaws. All of these styles help add personality to a character and allows you to move away from aminu styles.