nothingcanbegained asked: I have a character I roleplay, but I feel lately like every time I roleplay him, that I find that he’s just too… perfect? I mean he’s gentle mannered, polite, shy, honest, helpful, eager to please without being overbearing, easily embarrassed, and quite honestly, I’m finding him boring. How do I make a character more exciting without changing who he is? Should I try and add personality faults that can be directly related to his traits?

As writers, it’s easy to let our characters fall into the dreaded Mary Sue trope. But you’ve already realized the problem with too-perfect characters: they’re boring. They offer little conflict, they’re unrealistic, and they tend to drive everyone a little crazy.

Faults and vices are one of the easiest ways to add depth to your character. They make your character seem more like a person, rather than the stock character or flat character we see lining the edges of fiction stories. Here are some steps you can take to round out your character:

  1. Look at other characters that fit your description: Peter Pettigrew from Harry Potter, Mary Bennet from Pride & Prejudice, Iris from The Holiday, C3PO from Star Wars, etc.. What makes these characters well-rounded? What makes them interesting? Look at the way their faults build on their more positive attributes.
  2. Like you already suggested, pick a couple flaws that fit in with his established character. Based on your description, try something like self-doubt, inability to trust, or jealousy. Put him into a situation where the flaw comes into play. Maybe he overhears someone talking about him, or he is faced with a task that’s too much for him to handle. Play with it, and see where he takes you. Regardless of the positive traits he has, test drive your character making the wrong decision—a decision outside of his normal response or even outside of his moral codein order to create more conflict for him and broaden his development..
  3. Take one of his attributes and make it “too much.” If he’s honest, does that mean that he’ll always speak his mind to the point that he offends others? Does he say exactly what others don’t want to hear? Take “gentle mannered, polite, and shy” and turn it into ”easily manipulated.” ”Easily embarrassed” could become “ashamed.” There is always a negative slant on a positive characteristic. The possibilities are endless. 
  4. What is he passionate about? Give him something to fight for—maybe it’s a romantic interest, a place, an ideal, or even an opinion. What happens when that thing is threatened?
  5. Because you’re part of an RP, you have a unique advantage. Talk to your RP partner/group. Have them challenge you by putting your character into situations that are uncomfortable for him. Have them ask tough questions. How does he react to confrontation?
  6. Characters, like people, should change and grow. There’s no reason why he has to stay the way he is now.

Here are some other resources you can check out:

Good luck!

-Elizabeth


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