One important part of creating characters is giving them flaws and weaknesses. I doubt anybody who’s interested in this subject needed me to say that, but I did. Perfect, invincible characters are boring and unrealistic characters, and I think that’s something most people who write know. Even when a writer does fail to give a character any real flaws or weaknesses, I’d assume that they generally didn’t mean to. So I’m not going to ramble about that specific point. But I am absolutely going to ramble on this subject.
This post is about both flaws and weaknesses, because although they’re two different things, they both have the same purpose in making it harder for protagonists to reach their goals, and they’re often tied together. Originally this post was just going to be about flaws, but I quickly realised I would find it hard to talk about that without mentioning weaknesses. I think they go together anyway, and characters need both.
I’m sure I don’t really need to define what I mean by flaws and weaknesses, but I’m going to do it anyway, just for the sake of a coherent post. So when I talk about flaws, I mean aspects of a character’s personality that are less than desirable, and by weaknesses I mean things that they don’t have much ability for. And they often can be one and the same. For instance, a character’s flaw may be that they have a quick temper, and that could become a weakness because it could cloud their judgement, and an antagonist might take advantage of that. And if a character refuses to acknowledge their weakness, like if they insist on going into a fight despite having no ability in that area and actually being more of a hindrance than a help, that would be a flaw.
There’s something I’ve forgotten,
Something that I just can’t find.
There’s something that is hidden,
Locked away inside my mind.
There’s something that is missing,
Something bad or something good,
I just can’t remember it
And I feel I really should.
Spent a couple of nights away a few weeks back, in the village of Grinton. It’s in Richmondshire, eleven miles from Richmond. The only things we really did were hang around Richmond and go for a walk from Grinton to Reeth, but I can do a walking post about that.
I don’t have much to say about Grinton. It was very nice from what I saw, but I didn’t see very much of it. It was just part of the walk.
So you go out of Grinton on a road that sort of follows the river – the river Swale, for this is Swaledale. You walk along until you come within sight of a farm, and there’s a stream running down the field on your left. On your right is a gate leading to a path. You go through here.
I’ve actually been here twice in the last couple of months, and took different paths both times, which gives me a bit more to talk about. So that’s good.
So, Skipton Woods, also called Skipton Castle Woods, are some woods in Skipton near the castle, as you could probably gather. They’re owned by the castle, but leased to the Woodland Trust. Going through them isn’t a long walk, even if you take the longest route. It’s just a nice place to wander about in for a bit.
There are three entrances, and I took the same one both times, the main one. This one is in the town centre. You get to it by walking along the Leeds-Liverpool canal, which runs through Skipton. You don’t go along the main body of the canal, it’s called either the Springs branch or Thanet canal, and it, as the first name implies, branches off it. It takes you round the back of the castle, onto this sort of walkway. You’re not in the woods by this point, but it is probably my favourite part of the walk. I really like castles, and it is pretty cool around there. I’m very familiar with Skipton, but I’d never actually been in this part before – not that I can remember – and I was honestly astonished by that fact. I love that little bit of the walk.
This was going to be a post about morals in stories, then it became a post specifically about unintended morals, and that’s still sort of the gist, but I think I got a bit rambly about it, and wandered off a bit. I think ‘implications’ is the better word – hence, the title. I just thought I’d give a fair warning. Also, this is just me musing about this subject, these aren’t rules. I’m certainly no authority, it’s just my thoughts on things.
So yes, unintended morals. Some writers choose to use their stories to give a lesson, and others just come across like they were doing so, without meaning to. Sometimes this isn’t a problem, but others it is. How does this happen? Well, sometimes it’s just the writer’s opinions reflecting in their writing, which is something that I think will naturally happen, but when it comes to matters that are heavily debated, I don’t think you want to be wandering into that by accident. If you’re going to walk into marshes, you want to know you’re doing it and be properly prepared, not to just stumbled in.
Other times, you get books where I would assume the author does not actually believe in the ideas that are coming across, but they do come across. Books that garner a lot of negative attention often do thanks to some unintended implications. And ‘I didn’t mean it that way’ doesn’t really go very far as an excuse. It might stop people thinking you have certain opinions – and that is a might – but it won’t alter what you’ve written. Sometimes it’s not so bad, a slightly awkward implication isn’t so terrible a thing. But I have noticed some truly messed up morals in stories I’ve written, which fortunately weren’t shared with the world at large. But I know it can happen; when you’re focused on the story, you don’t always notice the implications of it.
They said that you were a monster
That you were crazy, mad
They told me you were dangerous
And that that made you glad.
And you stood there like a sculpture,
Set apart and alone
With tense shoulders and hands in fists,
Your face was set in stone
But as I looked closer at you
I saw something else there
You were angry, you were bitter,
But mostly, you were scared.
You were tense, alert and ready
But not to fight – to flee
It was clear once you took a look,
But no-one cared to see