Writing, page 11: Mistakes were made


Anonymous blog person: The first of which was this post.

Me: Okay, ignore that.

I haven’t done any writing tips posts in a while, so here we go. Not that I’m an expert, but every writer has his/her own take on the craft, and I like hearing them, so I figure people like hearing mine. If not, too bad.

People make mistakes. Huge one, small ones, small ones that become huge. (Somehow, though, the huge mistakes never become small ones.) It stands to reason then, that if you want your fiction to be the best it can be, that your characters must make mistakes. They’re only human after all, right?

Your characters may make mistakes due to false information or due to, and this is my favorite, quirks in their personality. Prejudices, flaws, fun stuff like that. Have I done a post yet on creating characters?

No? Oh shit.

See, a mistake.

Anonymous blog person: Dumb-ass.

I’ll take it for granted that you have created a character.

So let them make mistakes. Let them be imperfect. Make them realistic, flawed human beings.


For a fantastic example of a flaw, check out The Avengers, the scene where Loki decides to lecture the Hulk. That is a prime example of a character’s arrogance leading to an ass whuppin’. (Who the hell decides to pop off a monologue mere feet from the Hulk?)



Don’t be afraid to let your character take a beating.

Mistakes add drama, suspense, tension, and the chance that your reader may scream at the page in impotent fury as your main character lets the bad guy escape because he believed the bad guy’s brother when he said the dude wasn’t there, and the reason he believed him is because the brother swore on his own son’s life. (Who does that and lies anyway, right?) Your character’s flaw–hopefully one of them–just became clear: He’s too trusting.

I loaded Anderson, my werewolf character, up with flaws: alcohol and drug addiction, arrogance, and a touch of narcissism. Not to mention sarcasm and, once she became a werewolf, the tendency to punch problems. (I did wipe out the substance abuse problems by simply deciding that becoming a lean, mean lycanthrope somehow re-wired her brain. I got kinda tired of dealing with it, in other words. Ah, fiction!)

Of course, your character’s flaws don’t always have to lead to trouble. Your main character is too trusting when it comes to parents and their kids? Good, he just became the one guy who believes the mom when she says her little girl was kidnapped, even though there’s evidence that the mom had something to do with the disappearance.

To err is human, right?


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