― Camille Pissarro
One of the things I notice about writers is the different eye they used to assess the world around them.
If you are a writer, you know what I’m talking about. When we set our stories in places which might seem insignificant to others, there is usually a method to our “madness”. Characters are a part of their own backstory, with settings and circumstances weighing heavily on their character development.
Growing up in a particular environment can influence who we are: beyond the influence of parents, grandparents, siblings, or other extended family. Neighborhood and circumstances have a profound effect on who we become as adults.
Raised in poverty, there may always be a desire for more, to guard against a future want. The things characters hoard are not necessarily needed, but rather insurance against future deprivation, rather than an indication of greed.
When you seek to structure character flaws for those who populate your story, you don’t need to look very hard to find the flaws which build better characters.
These flaws are as obvious as the flip side of a coin.
Often motivation drives the process of a character’s traits.
Allow me to suggest that a character who is diligent, goal-oriented and determined may slide into an over-competitive, insensitive, and unforgiving attitude when looming deadlines approach. Circumstance drives these excellent qualities over the line to weaknesses which require acknowledgment and growth which may come from an honest desire to change.
If you draw characters who are discriminating, the slide into a position of fear is not far off. It is enhanced by one or two poor choices, which become a pattern of fearfulness.
Challenge-oriented characters are interesting because they believe they can do anything until something major goes wrong (usually out of their control) and the desire for a challenge becomes insecurity. The introspective character can be seen by the reader as well as the other characters as needy.
It is possible to add great dimension of depth to your characters by looking for those flip-side traits that make us all human. It also gives readers characters they can identify with, in some circumstances.