Fear in Writing: Flawed

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Thursday, April 29, 2010


The last few days have been dark ones for me, I'm afraid.  You see, I haven't been able to really use my hands.

As many of you know, I have fibromyalgia.  But it has been but a nuisance until this week.  Monday, the pain hit with a vengeance and kept me from commenting, writing, driving, caring for my kids, etc.

Today, the pain has waned enough for me to type of it.  So I ask you, have you ever created a character with a physical flaw?  Something that keeps him or her from doing something they love?  Maybe it is a writer who cannot write, a blind pianist, a deaf standup comedian--those are very literal interpretations.  But perhaps something deeper, more subtle...Depression keeping a protagonist in bed at that crucial moment, fear of heights forbidding a character from saving their own daughter's life.

What do you think of physical flaws in writing?

Because I wasn't able to type yesterday, I couldn't promote T.H.E. Hill's guest blog.  If you haven't already, read his very interesting post about Monterey Marys and their role in espionage.  His book, Voices Under Berlin, is now available.


  1. Hope you're feeling better soon. I think a book that has a character with physical flaws would make it more realistic. The reader would be able to relate to that character on some level.

    Thoughts in Progress

  2. I'm so sorry you are suffering. It can't be easy having to deal with such a thing.

    Flaws are what make our characters lovable. I wouldn't dream of creating a character without any. :)

  3. So glad the pain has receded, Michele. I know well the overwhelming desire to put words on paper, it must be so difficult to have your body say no. Hope you continue to feel better.

    I'm writing a trilogy. One of my characters is disfigured in the first book. Apart from her hands, she's able to hide the scars with clothing. A large part of her character arc is how she deals with the shame of not being perfect. How she stays tucked inside herself so she isn't forced to explain and relive what happened to her. And how she pushes those who care about her away because she doesn't want to reveal the extent of her mutilation.

  4. But what about PHYSICAL flaws?

    I just read a book by Cara Black called 'Murder in the Bastille.' In it, her MC is attacked and struck blind. Black does an excellent job of taking us through the life of a person learning to live with blindness--folding ones' money a certain way so you can always pay with the right amount, organizing clothes in drawers so you can dress yourself.

    And she also takes on the danger element--a sound in the darkness, an attacker but no idea what weapon is available or how far the fall will be.

    Those are things a reader can step into and really endure alongside the character. The important thing, I think, is to create a character with whom the reader wants to empathize, without making them have sympathize.


  5. VR- I responded before before your comment popped up. What an interest flaw! Shame is such a powerful emotion. Bravo for taking it on.

  6. I'm drawn to flawed characters, provides much more dimension.
    Hope you feel better soon!

  7. I have family members with that, and I do hope you get better soon!

    I've never written a character with a flaw, but I wouldn't be opposed to it. I believe it would make the character more real. Flawed characters have a flare the others don't. I think I may go write one now!


  8. Hope you continue to improve and all the pain goes away.

    I create characters with flaws, but they tend to be hidden ones that the character must address.

    Straight From Hel

  9. I'm sure glad you are feeling better. I share the pain of my fellow bloggers in blogdom.

    One of my villains has asthma that the protagonist discovers and exploits. But other than that, no. Good question though and one I will explore in further writings. Thanks.

    Stephen Tremp

  10. I am glad to hear you are starting to feel a bit better. Hope the improvement continues.

    I have never given any of MC's a disability other than fear and shyness. It is something to think on though.

  11. Sorry to hear you've been in pain, Michele.

    My characters rely on mental abilities and a partner to fly their ships, so the threat of losing either weighs heavily on the story.

  12. Yes, I love the flawed detective! Even if the flaw is pathological egoism -- cf, M. Poirot and Mr. Holmes.

    I do hope you're feeling better. How frustrating it must feel to not be able to type or to write.

  13. JD- I agree it adds dimension, though we shouldn't be dependent on that--wouldn't want to build a bunch of self-absorbed whiners!

    Justine- Thank you! And glad to inspire!

    Helen- Those are the kinds of flaws I embed in my characters as well. Mystery on top of mystery. And thanks for the well-wishes.

    Stephen- Asthma can be debilitating, and a useful tool in mystery writing! Definitely a good flaw to exploit when you need that last minute thrill in a scene.

    Ann- Fear and shyness can certainly stop people in their tracks. My husband (and Alan Orloff, I think) both had a fear of public speaking they had to overcome. And I know readers can identify with those flaws!

    Alex- Interesting...I would imagine you could go far with physical flaws in SciFi--some we humans haven't even thought of yet!

    Miss Lemon- And Mr. Poe from our side of the pond! Thank you.

  14. Jimmy Stewart's character had his vertigo, Miss Marple was afflicted by age, Hercule Poirot by vanity. In the "Bonecatcher" the main character is a bedridden quadraplegic. I do not believe that there is a character that is not flawed, unless you write about your father.

  15. And I wonder who anonymous is...Hmmm...Great points! And we all love those characters.

  16. I'm so sorry the pain has gotten worse. I hope you can find some way to manage it.

    Have you considered purchasing the Dragon Naturally Speaking program? We use it at school for kids with learning differences - it's a speech to text program. It's not perfect, but it's amazing what it can do. It might give you something to try - and it might lessen the frustration. Good luck with it. *hugs*

  17. I feel so bad for you Michele! I hope you feel better soon. I'll second the use of "Dragon Naturally Speaking"--that's how my dyslexic hubby writes and there are no hands required. Pain, I imagine, is another problem all together :(

  18. Chronic pain is no fun. :( I hope your pain eases soon. In stories, I think denying a character health is a good source of background conflict, as long as it's not over the top. Pain is common, so readers will relate. But be sure to share the pain-free times in the story too!

  19. I'm sorry for your pain, good lady. I do hope it has passed by the time you read this.

    As for the "flawed" character... of course! One of the most interesting writing exercises I've done was in response to a challenge to write from the perspective of a blind person. Something about that really opened my mind to the possibilities inherent in the other four senses.

    Even without physical limitations, though, a character has to have *some* flaws. They're boring otherwise. Which, of course, means that I'm not boring, 'cause I'm deeply flawed. Huh. That's kind of liberating, actually.... :)

  20. I just read this. I am so sorry you are in so much pain. Hope it goes away soon - get the sweethearts to kiss it better!

    I am not sure I would be able to do any physical disability. Maybe I would make a person painfully shy or something.