Character flaw

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In the creation and criticism of fictional works, a character flaw or heroic flaw is a bias, limitation, imperfection, problem, personality disorder, vice, phobia, prejudice, 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.

Flaws can add complexity, depth and humanity to the characters in a narrative. For example, the sheriff with a gambling addiction, the action hero who is afraid of heights, or a lead in a romantic comedy who must overcome his insecurity regarding male pattern baldness are all characters whose flaws help provide dimension. Perhaps the most widely cited and classic of character flaws is Achilles' famous heel.

In general, flaws can be categorized as minor, major, or tragic.

Minor flaw[edit]

A minor character flaw is an imperfection which serves 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.

Examples of this could include a noticeable scar, a thick accent or a habit such as cracking their knuckles.

Protagonists and other major characters may (and usually do) have multiple minor flaws, making them more accessible, and enabling the reader / viewer / listener to relate to the character (in the case of a sympathetic character) or otherwise influence the audience's opinions of the character.[citation needed]

Many insignificant or archetypal characters which are encountered only once or rarely are defined solely by a single minor flaw, differentiating them from the stock character or archetype that they adhere to.[citation needed]

Major flaw[edit]

A major character flaw is 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 honor), but are classified as such in that they often serve to hinder or restrict the character in some way.

Examples of this type of flaw could include blindness, amnesia or greed.

Unlike minor flaws, major flaws are almost invariably important to either the character's, or the story's development.

  • For villains, their major flaw is usually the cause of their eventual downfall.
  • For heroes, their major flaw usually must be overcome (either temporarily or permanently) at some point in the story, often at the climax, by their own determination or skill.
  • For neutral characters, or those that shift allegiance, the major flaw is usually the cause of either their corruption, redemption or both.
  • For the protagonist, the most visible flaw generally serves a more vital interest, as well, as it defines their core problem. It is the protagonist's reluctant (and usually unconscious) journey to address this problem that forms the spine of the story, sometimes acting as the MacGuffin to stimulate the plot.

Tragic/fatal flaw[edit]

This is a specific sort of flaw, also known as "Hamartia", which is possessed by Aristotelian tragic heros. It is a flaw which causes an otherwise noble or exceptional character to bring about their own downfall and, often, their eventual death.

Examples of this could include hubris, misplaced trust, excessive curiosity, pride and lack of self-control.

This fall usually occurs at the beginning of a story, with the story itself concentrating on the consequences or attempted redemption of the fall.




  • Rocky Balboa thinks of himself as a loser who cannot go the distance in the boxing ring: Rocky
  • Carl Denham is an egotist: King Kong
  • Rick thinks of himself as an unfeeling cynic who denies the pain and disappointment from a failed love affair with Ilsa: Casablanca
  • Captain Hook is obsessed with Peter Pan.
  • Roy Batty, as a replicant, is powerful, but has a very short lifespan: Blade Runner
  • Oskar Schindler starts out blinded by his greedy nature, which he overcomes and instead finds compassion to sacrifice in order to save his workers: Schindler's List
  • Travis Bickle has an almost masochistic obsession with the dark mean streets of 1970s Manhattan, and frequently drives around them in his taxi to expose himself to the perceived urban decay, fueling his inner rage: Taxi Driver
  • John Hammond fails to create his vision due to his naïve nature: Jurassic Park


Once Upon a Time
  • Rumplestiltskin's greatest character flaw was his greed, losing even those who love him over his mad desire for power. He shares this flaw with his former student and lover Cora: Once Upon a Time
  • Zelena's envy of her younger half-sister Regina Mills eventually transformed her into the infamous Wicked Witch of the West as she planned to reverse time and supplant Regina. Even after this plan was thwarted, her envy remained a great character flaw throughout her time on the show: Once Upon a Time
  • After the death of her fiancé Daniel Colter, Regina suffered a mental breakdown and became consumed with anger, which Rumplestiltskin was able to use to shape her into the Evil Queen who would cast his Dark Curse. Anger, as a fatal flaw, is one she shares with Killian Jones whose own anger transformed him into vengeful Captain Hook; however, Hook did not share Regina's mental instability: Once Upon a Time
  • The main character flaw of the protagonist of the series, Emma Swan, are her tendency to mistrust other people, which leads her to put up emotional barriers to protect herself and run when things get difficult. Her overcoming this flaw is a major story arc on the show: Once Upon a Time


  • The Primarch Lorgar Aurelian is extremely devout and reveres his "father", the Emperor of Mankind, as a god. The Emperor envisages a human civilization free of the shackles of religion and dogma and chastises Lorgar and his legion for worshipping him. Hurt and depressed by the humiliation of his father's rebuke, Lorgar and the Space Marines of the XVII Legion (the "Word Bearers") search for another purpose to sustain them, and in doing so become the first legion to fall under the malicious influence of Chaos. Their devotion to Chaos sees them instigate the devastating civil war known as the Horus Heresy, the events of which led to the current dystopian setting of Warhammer 40,000: Warhammer 40,000
  • Liquid's jealousy of Solid Snake's "dominant genes" and his desire to be the better of the two sets much of the story in motion, leading to Liquid's eventual downfall: Metal Gear Solid
  • Kratos acts brutally and violently out of anger and desire for revenge, with devastating consequences on his only life and the world around him: God of War


  1. ^ Begin (2015), p. 48


  • Begin, Mary Jane (2015). My Little Pony: The Art of Equestria. New York: Abrams. ISBN 978-1-4197-1577-8.