Sitting in church Sunday I had a great idea. I get lots of ideas at church. Don’t go to another post, this is not a sermon. Keep reading. The sermon mentioned pride. WOW. That is a great character flaw. It reminded me of a couple of characters in my WIP, Dead in the Water.
The characters we create should be 3 D, that means they must have flaws. Don’t over do it and cross into melodrama, but they can not be perfect. No one likes perfect.
Let’s look at pride. (I promise not to hold up actual people as example) According to the 1985 edition of Mr. Webster’s dictionary, pride is as follows:
(n) 1. state of being proud a. conceit b. reasonable self-respect c. delight from an act, possession, relationship
2. proud or disdainful behavior/treatment
3. ostentatious display
4. a source of pride/best in class
5. company of lions
6. a showy or impressive group
By the time I made it to #6 I had a vision of prancing peacocks. For this post, I will ignore the last few definitions and concentrate on those related to characters.
Photo by WEYENBERGH JACKY
Small amounts of pride are evident and even necessary for characters. It’s called positive self-esteem. Unless, your character is suffering low self-esteem, they will have some level of pride. Small amounts of pride are OK. Left unchecked by humility, it causes problems. The clique is easy, the husband that refuses to ask for directions and wanders aimlessly around the countryside waiting for some magic hand to point him in the right direction, or the mother who thinks her child is perfect and never does anything wrong.
Having gone to Sunday school my whole life, pride comes before the fall, has been drilled into my brain. Unless you work in Washington DC and then you are rewarded for it.
What does this mean for our characters?
Pride usually starts small, being rewarded for good work. Constant praise morphs into blind pride. It can be based on achievement. Here in the South it tends to be based more on gender rolls and college football. Pride also comes from personal image, or their perceived image. It doesn’t have to be how others actually see them. A character who sees themselves as a pillar of the community and likes to show off his/her “perfect” life will take drastic measures to keep that image.
My MC is named Coco. She was created out of frustration. I was tired of reading cozy novels where the protagonist was tall, thin, gorgeous, and financially stable. I wanted one to be more realistic. Coco is a little short, and curvy. She looks like I imagine most American women look. She’s working on her second career after she failed at being a reporter. She’s not visually perfect, but she does have a positive self-image. Her problem with pride shows up in an unlikely place. She get’s mixed up in a murder investigation and everyone tells her she needs to stop and let the police handle it. This is where most Southerners have a problem with pride. Now that people think she can’t do it she has to prove them wrong. Her pride is wrapped up in her abilities, it also makes it hard to ask for help when you’re in over your head. Of course, things don’t work out and she ends up in a dangerous situation. I’m not telling any more, I hope the book will be out before I die.
Pride causes people to become arrogant, can put them in dangerous situations, and can alienate others. It’s an easy flaw to give a character, because so many people actually have it. Go ahead and tell me my biscuits are not as good as yours! The fun is finding new ways to make that flaw evident.
What’s your favorite character flaw?