Secondary fatal flaws - confusing or good writing?

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  • Secondary fatal flaws - confusing or good writing?

    I was thinking about how every character has their one big fatal flaw. Say it's that they're irresponsible. Overcoming this flaw by the end of the story is usually the heart of what makes a character interesting.

    But what if your character has a secondary fatal flaw. Let's say he's also selfish. Is it okay to deal with this flaw during the course of the movie with maybe not as much emphasis put on it as his primary fatal flaw? Or will the second flaw be too confusing for the audience? Will they think, "Wait a minute? Is this guy irresponsible or is he selfish? I don't get it."

    Anyone else have experience with this?

    Bonus points for examples.
    Script Reviews - 5 a week! http://scriptshadow.blogspot.com/

  • #2
    Re: Secondary fatal flaws - confusing or good writing?

    Why would you not try to make a character as complex and layered as real people are (or can be)?

    Some of my favorite characters have many flaws, but only need to overcome one during the course of the story (Jack in The Fisher King, Melvin in As Good As It Gets), to put them on a different path.

    And... I also don't believe that a character has to learn something or overcome his fatal flaw to be effective. It's a tried and true way to create an arc and find closure in a story, but it's such a conventional device at this point that it can bore me if the execution isn't exemplary (like in the two I mentioned).

    I want to write a story in which the main character's irresponsibility allows him to be victorious.

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    • #3
      Re: Secondary fatal flaws - confusing or good writing?

      No, I agree with you. I want to make my characters complex. But then some people come back and say, "there's too much going on with this character. I don't understand where they're coming from."
      Script Reviews - 5 a week! http://scriptshadow.blogspot.com/

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      • #4
        Re: Secondary fatal flaws - confusing or good writing?

        I'm struggling to think of any film that focuses heavily on two seperate and unrelated "fatal flaws." I don't think it's ideal. because it would just confuse things thematically.

        Reminds me of something David Mamet wrote (I think in "The Three Uses of the Knife"), that when giving an excuse of why you are late to work, saying "my alarm clock didn't go off and the bus was running late" does not make the excuse twice as strong. In fact, it weakens it.

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        • #5
          Re: Secondary fatal flaws - confusing or good writing?

          Originally posted by TheKeenGuy View Post
          I'm struggling to think of any film that focuses heavily on two seperate and unrelated "fatal flaws." I don't think it's ideal. because it would just confuse things thematically.

          Reminds me of something David Mamet wrote (I think in "The Three Uses of the Knife"), that when giving an excuse of why you are late to work, saying "my alarm clock didn't go off and the bus was running late" does not make the excuse twice as strong. In fact, it weakens it.
          Yeah, exactly what I'm worried about.
          Script Reviews - 5 a week! http://scriptshadow.blogspot.com/

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          • #6
            Re: Secondary fatal flaws - confusing or good writing?

            Well, you probably run into problems if you consider both a "fatal" flaw. Fatalism conotates a certain singular outcome, and therefore you can't have two "fatal" flaws.

            But, that's not say you can't write a deeply flawed character. If you're going the fatal flaw route, he probably should have one flaw that overshadows his other character flaws, but there ought to be room for more. Any kind of idiosyncratic flaws a character has, the more opportunity for conflict involving pathos.

            I guess the trick is to explain some of these flaws through subtext and backstory, and to keep them congruent in a sense that the character doesn't border on caricature.

            Not that I'm an expert...

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            • #7
              Re: Secondary fatal flaws - confusing or good writing?

              Originally posted by wilsoneads View Post
              But what if your character has a secondary fatal flaw. Let's say he's also selfish. Is it okay to deal with this flaw during the course of the movie with maybe not as much emphasis put on it as his primary fatal flaw? Or will the second flaw be too confusing for the audience? Will they think, "Wait a minute? Is this guy irresponsible or is he selfish? I don't get it."
              There is a first time for anything. But, I think you're thinking about this the wrong way.

              How can I explain this... your protagonist can only be as complex as the antagonizing forces let him be.





              Usual Suspects is a good movie.
              But this wily god never discloses even to the skillful questioner the whole content of his wisdom.

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              • #8
                Re: Secondary fatal flaws - confusing or good writing?

                Selfishness can lead people to be irresponsible. Find plot points where one triggers the other and creates a problem.
                Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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