Looking into a few weaknesses for character drawing and dimensionality
| "Nobody wants to see a story about the Village of the Happy Nice People." |
All people have weaknesses. As such, most conflicts in the stories are caused by the weaknesses, and most stories involve weaknesses. Weaknesses cause problems for the protagonists, the antagonists, and those around them. In most adventure stories, weaknesses are physical like kryptonite is for Superman. In literary stories and in most genres, a weakness can become the theme or it may drive the plot forward.
Weaknesses can be psychological or moral or both. When the weakness is psychological, the inner person is damaged in some way, and this causes the character to act in certain ways. When a psychological weakness causes someone else to get hurt, it also becomes a moral weakness. A character with a moral weakness always has a direct negative effect on the events and other characters.
Sometimes, a writer may think he has given a moral weakness to a character, when in essence, that weakness is a psychological one. Any weakness can become a moral one if it really harms another person. For example, when a character has an inferiority complex and feels inadequate with whatever he does, this is a psychological weakness, but if a character’s inferiority complex drives him to hate a successful person to such a degree that he harms him to bring him down, then his weakness becomes a moral one.
Weaknesses usually have to do with feelings resulting from an earlier hurt in the backstory of a character. Most of those feelings are destructive, and if the character you are creating is a moral one, he or she is going to fight against that weakness, since morality has to involve struggling against the self or one’s selfishness.
Weaknesses arise from the mind as destructive states. Destructive states of the mind are:
Jealousy and envy,
Lack of compassion,
Inability to have interpersonal relationships,
Harboring negative emotions.
In a protagonist, if he is a moral one, most of these will stay below the surface and will not let him harm another person. If you have created a villain, however, these mental states will need to be exaggerated. Although there are countless negative emotions, let’s look at a few of them that can create havoc for our characters.
Anger: A strong burst of anger is irresistible. The character feels helpless and powerless to stop it. He has no choice in experiencing it. Yet, when we look deep into anger, we find it is a collection of different events and emotions. At the very core of it, anger may not even be malevolent.
Pride: Pride has many aspects, such as being proud of achievements, feeling superior to others, holding others in contempt, wrong assessment of qualities in oneself and others, and not recognizing the good qualities in others.
Jealousy: In essence, jealousy is inability to rejoice in others’ happiness. One is rarely jealous of suffering, and jealousy is usually directed at others’ happiness, good qualities, and achievements.
Attachment: An attachment is clinging to one’s way of perceiving things. Sometimes turned into an obsession, attachment shows up as plain desire for sensual pleasures, an object the character wants to possess, the subtle fixation in oneself as selfishness or the “me, me, me” syndrome, or fascination with ideals and other phenomena.
Ignorance: Ignorance is a mental factor that prevents the lucid and true determination of reality. It can obscure the ultimate wisdom and the knowledge of proper action. This negative emotion has little to do with what is taught in general education. In a way, it can be said that ignorance is an emotional disorder because it bears a lack of judgment between what needs to be accomplished or avoided in order to achieve happiness.
Hatred: This is a deep feeling that triggers one’s animosity internally. It is closely connected with other related emotions such as resentment, bearing grudges, contempt, etc. Hatred is the most dangerous negative emotion since it eventually turns into an irresistible wish to harm people and to destroy them.
An important point to remember in our writing is that negative emotions are intermittent. If you are showing a negative emotion in a person, you do not have to make him feel that emotion all the time, regardless of what happens to him.
Another point is, as negative emotions creep into the mind, they transform into moods and eventually into traits. So in a story, you can evolve a negative emotion as a mood first and make it take root in your character.
Then, do not protect your positive, even saintly characters from negative emotions. A highly evolved character will know how to use an antidote to the negativity he or she is feeling, like using love against hatred.