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Old 01-07-2013, 11:04 PM   #1
Clubmonstar
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Character Flaw and Character Arc - my first novel

I have been doing lots of research for my first novel recently and have now begun planning the plot and characters in detail. I have become unstuck a little, when prompted by some online sources, to consider the flaws of my central characters and also the character arc. These are things I have given scant consideration and to be honest, know little about.


I am writing about a teenage girl - let’s call her Navjeet - who told me about her compelling life. I have added extra details to make the story more rounded, but am concerned about whether she will take the reader on enough of a journey and show enough character development. Of course this is all new to me.


The story is based around a tyrannical father who castigates the mother for not producing a male child after many attempts (she then attempts suicide). The next phase concerns the older sister, who refuses to marry the suitor chosen by the parents and threatens suicide until the parents relent. Then the final phase concerns Navjeet, who also refuses to marry the suitor chosen for her and eventually escapes the shackles of the family and marries the husband of her choice.


My dilemma is about the central character, Navjeet. I believe that the story could be told in first person, through her eyes, but as the drama for her only comes in the final phase – what would her character arc look like throughout the whole story. And how do I create and engineer her ‘flaws’?


I’m determined not to write a single word until I’ve got this clear and believe me I’ve given it lots of thought.


Would it be better to write the story in separate parts? Then the central character of each part would actually be mum, then sister and finally Navjeet.


Or should I think of the 3 women as one character, in the sense that their combined flaw is a weakness in overcoming the father’s dominance? Then the character arc is based on separate attempts to challenge/defeat his power, ending with Navjeet who succeeds.


If I really do need to have a separate ‘flaw’ in Navjeet , the central character, I thought I could create an instance where she in some way betrays her mother/sister to the father, causing them grief in the first two parts.


Any help would be gratefully appreciated. I don’t know if writing it as a memoir would affect the technicality of character either.
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Old 01-08-2013, 01:42 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Clubmonstar View Post
I am writing about a teenage girl - let’s call her Navjeet - who told me about her compelling life. I have added extra details to make the story more rounded, but am concerned about whether she will take the reader on enough of a journey and show enough character development. Of course this is all new to me.

Don't be afraid to stray from the actual story, otherwise you'll be hampered by the truth.

My dilemma is about the central character, Navjeet. I believe that the story could be told in first person, through her eyes, but as the drama for her only comes in the final phase

First person is difficult to pull off for beginners, you might want to start with a third person POV. If the drama only comes at the end, it'll be a very boring book.


I’m determined not to write a single word until I’ve got this clear and believe me I’ve given it lots of thought.

It's OK to think things true and plan them out. You should rethink not writing a single word until everything is just right, though. Halfway through the book you might find you're writing a very different kind of story than you anticipated.

Would it be better to write the story in separate parts? Then the central character of each part would actually be mum, then sister and finally Navjeet.

Try to focus on just one character's POV and stick with that through the entire book. Multiple POV's can be very tricky, especially for a beginner.
I know you were primarily asking about how to find flaws in your MC, but I don't think I can be of much help there. My suggestion would be to start writing, even if it's just a few scenes, to try and flesh your character out. The flaws might simply present themselves as you write.
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Old 01-08-2013, 03:04 AM   #3
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It does seem like you could have some trouble here, because the events you described seemed unconnected.

However, you can connect them, by making the first two main conflicts Navjeet's own. How does she try to deal with her father's abuse of her mother? How does she deal with her sister's unwanted marriage? These experiences can build up until she's finally struggling for her own freedom, using the strength she's gained from handling the previous experiences.

Don't try to think of flaws as entities separate from the character, to be added on later. A character's flaws should be integral to the character's overall personality. If you've already created the character, try to pick out what flaws she would naturally have.
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Old 01-08-2013, 03:23 AM   #4
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If you want to write a story you need a story problem. The story problem comes from and/or is dovetailed with the character's vulnerabilities. If you look at your favorite books you'll see they fit this pattern. So you'll want to present Navjeet with some kind of problem that will be really a challenge for her to deal with.

"how do I create and engineer her ‘flaws’?"

In my experience, the more 'real' a character appears to me before I start working on a story, the harder it is to write. When I start with a type or a role and then give the character some kind of problem to deal with, then it's much easier to tell a story.

Hope some of that is helpful.
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Old 01-08-2013, 03:26 AM   #5
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Flaws are part of the character, not something to be grafted onto the character like Bella's 'clumsiness' in the Twilight series.

The best way to figure out character flaws is to think of your characters as people, same as people you know in your life. Is your character stubborn? Passive-aggressive? Overly timid until she breaks?

And definitely do not wait until you get everything right because otherwise you'd never write anything down. And sometimes the only way to reveal someone's flaws is to start writing their story.
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Old 01-08-2013, 03:32 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Clubmonstar View Post

The story is based around a tyrannical father who castigates the mother for not producing a male child after many attempts (she then attempts suicide).
I'm guessing that you should have said the story is based around Navjeet, otherwise the only common thread throughout all three is the Father, and he ain't so nice!

Quote:

The next phase concerns the older sister, who refuses to marry the suitor chosen by the parents and threatens suicide until the parents relent. Then the final phase concerns Navjeet, who also refuses to marry the suitor chosen for her and eventually escapes the shackles of the family and marries the husband of her choice.
I'm a little confused myself at the moment. It seems to me that you've three separate stories, and the only linking thread is the Father.
It may help not to think of each event as a phase, that indicates that the event will pass off, whereas it may be better if you referred to them as Acts.... google three Act structure.

Quote:
My dilemma is about the central character, Navjeet.
Yes, that is what we want to see.

Quote:
I believe that the story could be told in first person, through her eyes, but as the drama for her only comes in the final phase – what would her character arc look like throughout the whole story. And how do I create and engineer her ‘flaws’?

A few ideas from me are:
- It would be dark, but the entire story from the father's POV. Remember, we don't always have to like the main character.
- A series of first person "diary" entries from Nav and sister, maybe even mother.
- Third person POV, focusing on Nav, but you would have to bring her in from the start, involve her in the mother's and sister's dilemma.
- A tricky one, it would involve a lot of planning, is to do 3rd and 1st. 3rd focusing on Nav and 1st in diary entry form? It's not an easy one to master from the off though.

Quote:

Would it be better to write the story in separate parts? Then the central character of each part would actually be mum, then sister and finally Navjeet.
Then you wouldn't have one story, but three stories.

Quote:

Or should I think of the 3 women as one character, in the sense that their combined flaw is a weakness in overcoming the father’s dominance? Then the character arc is based on separate attempts to challenge/defeat his power, ending with Navjeet who succeeds.
I like this idea, but then again it will be hard to execute. I'd go with Nav as main character throughout, but don't take my advice as gospel.

Quote:
If I really do need to have a separate ‘flaw’ in Navjeet , the central character, I thought I could create an instance where she in some way betrays her mother/sister to the father, causing them grief in the first two parts.
Her flaw could be her lack of action. e.g. seeing all this abuse, etc, and doing nothing about it.



Brain fried now after that ....
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Old 01-08-2013, 03:33 AM   #7
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Have you developed character profiles for your main characters? These should include your character's wants and needs which will help you develop character arcs.

If you don't want to start writing your novel yet consider writing up some backstory scenes or 'a day in the life of' to help you flesh out the characters. Try 'free writing' when you're doing this.

I did this before I started writing my novel and it really helped me get a better understanding of my characters.
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Old 01-08-2013, 07:15 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Clubmonstar View Post
My dilemma is about the central character, Navjeet. I believe that the story could be told in first person, through her eyes, but as the drama for her only comes in the final phase – what would her character arc look like throughout the whole story. And how do I create and engineer her ‘flaws’?
You can't create flaws and just stick them on a character. They have to go with her personality. What is she like? How is she different from her mother and sister? How does she interact with her family members? Each of the family members should have different personalities, so the interactions are all different. You're not making flaws, you're making a person whose personality creates flaws.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Clubmonstar View Post
Would it be better to write the story in separate parts? Then the central character of each part would actually be mum, then sister and finally Navjeet.

Or should I think of the 3 women as one character, in the sense that their combined flaw is a weakness in overcoming the father’s dominance? Then the character arc is based on separate attempts to challenge/defeat his power, ending with Navjeet who succeeds.
It can be hard to make characters distinct enough to have three POVs, especially in first person. It would probably be best if you just had Navjeet's POV.

You definitely shouldn't make them the same character. Especially because similar events are happening to each of them, you need to make the characters very different from each other. They should react differently to the father and to each other.

If you make the story about Navjeet, you need to show her interactions during all of this. Don't make her passive. Even if it isn't personally her experiencing the problems, she should be affected by them. Her family interactions and her own experiences with her father should cause her to change during the book.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Clubmonstar View Post
If I really do need to have a separate ‘flaw’ in Navjeet , the central character, I thought I could create an instance where she in some way betrays her mother/sister to the father, causing them grief in the first two parts.
I think this is a good idea. Even though all three are affected by the father, they should react to it differently.
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Old 01-09-2013, 12:37 AM   #9
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Wow - thanks guys. I know it was quite a convoluted post. Especially for my first on here.
I did start to write a character profile for Navjeet. It was going really well and I thought a lot about her relationship with the other characters and started to think about what flaws she might have. But then I found that word ‘character arc’ and realised that she didn’t seem to have the quest to overcome her own problem. Or maybe I was just thinking too literally with the word ‘quest’.
I agree that the story should be her POV in the first person and actually her quest will be her angst / dealings with the impact of her father on her family. I have been a bit mechanical in my thinking about her flaws. I like the idea of free writing and ‘a day in the life of’ to see what types of interactions might come up between the family members.
Again, thanks for your thoughts on this. You’ve been a great help.
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