Neo’s Character Flaw

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that I’d had to put timelining of the four-story SF series I’m working on on hold, because I’d managed to bugger up the way my protagonist’s major problem (her wound) got resolved at the end of the first story. I’d like to explain that a bit, at least the way it was explained to me.

Characters have flaws, and they have wounds. Flaws are usually consequences of wounds. When it comes to developing a series, the wound will usually carry on through the entire series. I used Harry Potter as an example; his wound is that Voldemort murdered his parents, and that doesn’t get sorted out until the defeat of Voldemort at the end of the last book. However, Harry has a series of flaws: self-doubt, arrogance, the worry that he’s a new Voldemort in the making, and so on. And each of these provides a background for one of the books, and is resolved by the end of that book.

So while wounds and flaws are related, they’re distinct.

But there’s more to flaws than just setting them up at the start of a story and resolving them at the end. Far better is to make the resolution of the flaw vital to the resolution of the story as a whole.

Here’s an example: Neo in The Matrix. Neo’s flaw is that he won’t accept that he is The One. In terms of wants and needs, he wants to believe that he’s not special (and the Oracle reinforces this when she tells him he isn’t). But he needs to believe, because until he does he doesn’t stand a chance against Agent Smith. So his wants and needs conflict.

So then comes the fight with Smith, and Neo dies in the Matrix. BUT… at that point, Trinity tells Neo’s real-world corpse that she loves him and that means he must be The One, because the Oracle told her so. And now Neo believes; he knows he is The One. He is reborn with world-bending powers, and can take on Smith with one hand behind his back.

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In the first story of the series I’m working on at the moment, my protagonist realises that what she thought she wanted was a phantom, and that what she really needed the whole time is about to be taken away by the bad guy. This happens when the bad guy himself tells her that he’s going to take that thing from her, not realising that he just gave her a reason to fight as hard as she ever has, and doomed himself in the process.

Hopefully I’ve shed a little light on how wants and needs can tie into flaws in a way that all comes together at the end of a story, in such a way as to make for a more powerful tale.

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