Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Making Mistakes

We walk a fine line when describing our characters' thoughts and actions. We don't want them to be too intimidating, or the reader may not identify with them. One way to achieve this is to let our characters make mistakes. That way they show their human sides.

The problem with letting our characters make mistakes is we don't want them to seem too stupid or no one will like them. I'm sure you've read those kind of books or seen those type of movies where the hero or heroine is too stupid to live, running straight into danger instead of doing the sensible thing to avoid it.

Some authors allow their character to make mistakes in judgment by trusting the wrong people or being overconfident in situations where danger is involved.

Have you noticed characters make mistakes? What type? Have you let one or more of your characters make a mistake? Please share.


  1. Morgan, you always pick such interesting topics to discuss! I agree, this is a very fine line we walk as writers. You want to make your characters real, but you don't want to tick off or scare away your readers. The last thing any writer wants to get is the label that their beloved character is too stupid to live, but the reality is that a lot of people actually do stuff like that in real life and do they get labeled like that? So not fair!

    As for me, I try not to let my characters rush into a dangerous situation at the risk of their own safety unless the story calls for it (such as the character is a cop or firefighter), but there are always going to be incidents of them making mistakes due to misplaced trust or betrayals.


  2. Anonymous8:03 AM

    Oh yeah. Making mistakes is human, and "perfect" characters that never make a mistake and are not flawed in any way just does not make for "real" feeling writing. I even like it when the cunning mastermind evil antagonist goofs up - makes for an unexpected twist you can have fun with.

  3. I think mistakes are a part of life so none of my characters are perfect. However, some learn from their mistakes, others don't.

    Jane Kennedy Sutton
    Author of The Ride

  4. Nobody is perfect so we gotta have our characters messing up...
    Poor judgement is an excellent one - I use that often. An unstable temper is always good. An impulsive and rash decision.
    All four personality types have their weaknesses, so I draw upon those often.

    L. Diane Wolfe

  5. One of my characters is just too trusting. She's learning the hard way not to do that anymore.

    I like when characters are real. The perfect hero isn't all that fun to read about.

  6. Hi Morgan, nice post. I think my characters pick up some of my flaws...and fears. Echoes of me. I hope that makes them more real.

  7. My characters always make mistakes! That way the reader can empathize. After all, they're only human.

    Great post! Really gets you thinking.

  8. Morgan what a great blog. But then again I find them all interesting.

    I create my characters this way: If I were in the same room with them what qualities or qwirks would they have. Perfection has its place, but I feel the character that is not so perfect, readers tend to identify with no matter what walk of life they come from.

  9. Hi Morgan,
    I have a scene where a normally intelligent woman foolishly allows a man into her apartment. He attacks her, and she fights him off with a tampon.

    It's important to have your characters make mistakes as long as they don't look like total idiots. Perfect people don't exist, so perfect characters shouldn't exist.

    Bob Sanchez


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