Love/Hate (Photo credit: guevo)
I never knew what a character defect was until I stepped into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. I am breaking my anonymity, but it is no secret I am sober almost eleven years and I didn’t get sober alone. No one gets sober alone.
I found an interesting list of character defects in my research of things I’ve not committed to memory. Check out the list and see which ones might be screaming at you on any given day. This can be a kind of liberating fun (alkie or not) and if you are a writer, a great tool.
One of my chief character defects is laziness… interpreted through the Seven Deadly Sins: SLOTH. But my laziness is an asset in moderation. For example, it’s Sunday (as I write this it really is Sunday – this will be posted on a Tuesday) and I am feeling sleepy, unmotivated and well, lazy. I can turn my laziness into an asset by assessing why I am feeling lazy. Am I just being a tree-climbing sloth or am I legitimately tired and need some rest? Once I do an honest inventory of my sloth-like ways, I can make an honest judgment and figure out: Is my slothiness justified?
How does this relate to writing? Because any great character is full of defects… I don’t know about you, but reading about perfect people with perfect lives and perfect meatloaf is borrring.
I would much rather read about people I can relate to in real life. Do they curse a lot? Make sandwiches instead of hot meals three times a week? Maybe they always have the best intentions, but then that little sloth on the shoulder whispers “It’s okay, naps are more fun.”
Damn you Sloth… and your Slothy wisdom.
Defects are unchecked assets. An asset is saving money… but if you save too much? You’re no better than Scrooge McDuck and his miserly ways. Maybe you like eating ice cream or chocolate cake… maybe you like casinos. Moderation? It’s all alright… Overkill? they have groups for that if you have a serious problem.
Sure, that glass of wine tastes good and by the second one, you’re feeling alright… But by glass number seven? Um, welcome to my old world when drinking and stupidity synonymously were my things.
Our characters need to be screwed up so much that they are interesting but not unbelievable. Like, Suzy might have a fetish for her own blood… but she can’t cut off an appendage and leave it to fester. Honestly, I’m not sure what defect that would fall into, except totally f**king weird.
Get lost, Weirdo Suzy.
Check out the list of character defects/assets… are any familiar to you? How do you research defects for your characters?