While reviewing my story and notes about her, I realiyed that my main character doesn't have any major flaws. She is a hothead and she has to hide where she comes from, but that's it. She isn't god-like powerful, she just does alright in most things, because she had a lot of training, so more a jack of all trades character. She does fail, but she's never completely incompetent.

So now I ask myself if readers may find her too boring.
If so, how can I improve her, without making the training seem like a waste of time?

  • 1
    make her seen like an ass to others Oct 18, 2017 at 18:34
  • I like older fantasy and the characters were less whizz-bang back then, and so, for example, in ST-TOS the story could boil down to examining, for example, societal issues etc. I was thinking about @Aspen Rand's comment and I realized yes, sometimes these characters seem like an ass to others. Kirk and Spock both are asses from time to time. Personally, I'd rather read a 'boring' character dealing with an important issue (and I want the author to dig in) than an exciting character running around doing exciting things.
    – SFWriter
    Oct 18, 2017 at 20:42
  • ...being a hothead is a weakness.
    – elrobis
    Oct 20, 2017 at 19:20

3 Answers 3


Your MC does not exactly have to have weaknesses, the main thing is that she has problems. She can also have negative emotions.

Her problems have to be big enough that she struggles against them and readers believe she may fail to overcome them, or in most cases at least do not see HOW she will overcome them, and that is why they keep reading, to find out. (For example, in most detective stories we feel certain the detective will solve the crime somehow, but from or point of view it seems an impossible puzzle).

There must be some kind of uncertainty in the reader: If they know how it will all turn out, they get bored and stop reading. In Star Wars or Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter we never believed the villains would prevail; and the heroes had no terrible flaws or weaknesses (other than self-doubt), but the stories had a lot of uncertainty. And we always believed the heroes could at least be hurt.

She doesn't have to have weaknesses. Her problem does need to be daunting.

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    The other thing that I like, and that the stories you point to show, and that has been true in my own life, is that the SOLUTION by the hero usually comes about in a way that is not what they intended. Frodo meant to put the ring in Mt. Doom, but couldn't and Gollum was the device for Frodo to win. Luke planned to take out the DS with computers, but in the end chose the force. I forget how HP ended but I think Neville was important. What makes a character boring is if they say I will use my Kung Fu (for example) to win, and then that's how it plays out.
    – SFWriter
    Oct 18, 2017 at 19:23
  • @DPT That is a good point, hand in hand with not seeing HOW she will overcome. If the author tells us "kung fu" and then kung fu never fails all the way to "The End", then I agree -- a waste of time. Same if the hero is the richest man on the planet, and eventually solves his problem by spending money. Throw THAT in the trash! Kind of like the detective stories, the solution has to be not-so-obvious to either protagonist or reader, for about 3/4 of the story, and then not-so-guaranteed-to-work for much of the final act.
    – Amadeus
    Oct 18, 2017 at 19:49

People like to see character growth, boring stories don't usually have this. I watched a movie a few years ago where it was just the MC going around killing people for 2 hours and then he got to the main bad enemy and he fought him and won and the end.

There is nothing wrong with writing about a skilled person, but they can't just auto win. As you said, some times they do fail. This is okay! Failing doesn't mean they are incompetent. Failing simply means that their current idea did not work and they need to rethink.

You mentioned that the MC is a hothead! Really drive home that weakness if that's the one weakness you want to create. Show how it gets her into bad situations because of her temper, but then as the story progresses, have her learn how to handle it. Maybe not get rid of it, but learn how to handle it so she is able to think more rationally and mature. Possibly have one of her failures even be due to her being a hothead. Have that failure be major enough that she might want to consider holding her tongue or what ever the situation would be.

Hiding their past isn't a weakness. It creates a mystery about a character that should eventually get revealed slowly through the story.

Most people who are extremely smart also tend to lack common sense. Most people who have amazing street smarts, may not be the best people when it comes to academics. Stereotyped? Yes, but generally that is how it plays out. If your character is smart, plays an instrument, can build a rocket in 3 days, is able to run for 20 miles, then balance it out. Make it so her hotheadedness plays a factor that because she is so smart, she comes off arrogant and is easily angered by others and thinks she knows everything. When she gets advice about being street smart, refusing to listen to other people's advice which ends up causing her to get into trouble and she refuses to listen until something major happened (say she was kidnapped or raped or what ever the story is), and then she starts being more humble, and not thinking she knows everything about everything.

In the end, as long as you don't make the MC a god character that wins every time, and does everything correctly, you are okay. There are real life people who are generally good at many areas in life so why should characters be any different? Just make sure that on the few weaknesses you provide, that they balance out her good qualities. Or, go the other way, make it so her hotheadedness leads to her demise and ultimately causes her to lose everything.

  • As a counter point i HATE these cliche mandatory weaknesses, even more when they are a package deal like smart/no common sense, or strong/stupid, and would advise anyone to avoid them far more than then "perfect" character who this day and age often seems like a novel idea
    – Andrey
    Oct 18, 2017 at 20:14
  • @Andrey I didn't say to avoid them, but your story will also be extremely boring. I did mention you can put "well rounded" individuals in your story, but if you don't do much with the character it will be 1 dimensional to readers. It's up to you and your goals with your story. If you want to sell, you may need to compromise. No one wants a shortbread cookie with bits of pickles in it except for a few. Everyone though loves a good chocolate chip cookie, even if it isn't cooked the best. Just food for thought.
    – ggiaquin16
    Oct 18, 2017 at 20:20

No, not always

I think there are lots of interesting perfect characters in fiction.The most famous that comes to mind is Sherlock Holmes. Some may say that he has drug issues and such, but it never impedes his progress, and he is always perfect in his solutos. Even with push comes to shove the character is a boxer and wins every fight he is ever in without effort.

This stands very contradictory to the modern cliche that every character must be flawed, and every character has to evolve. So many works come down to a saturday morning cartoon where we have to learn a lesson by the end (Back to the Future)

I think the main question of a writer is "what is my story about?" If your story is about your MC then she absolutely has to go through personal conflict and change, hopefully for the better, but the opposite can also be great writing. Have your character fail once in the middle and then descend into failure.

If you story is about a mystery, or a great antagonist that can exploit the MC's perfection, then you don't need that. For instance in Sherlock Holmes we get to see everything from Watson, this way we can enjoy the mystery even once Holmes solves it. And never forget a good Xanatos Gambit

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