Fatal flaw: the motivator or personality trait (key element) that causes a person’s downfall.
In the early days of literature, this concept was called “hamartia.” Yes, it’s from Ancient Greek. I’m sure other literature majors who read this blog might recognize it. Sometimes I like to throw around terminology that might expand your vocabulary.
Because hamartia is a word you can use in daily conversation. “Her hamartia is her need to control everyone.”
As I’m developing the characters in my current book into deep, believable people, one area that needs attention is the idea of a fatal flaw. Because in literature, a good story is made better if a character’s fatal flaw is exploited. To help me with this, I found a workshop by Laurie S. Campbell. She discusses nine personality types and their corresponding fatal flaw. Sounds easy enough.
For example, my heroine, Zi Yan fits character type eight: the Controller. Her background as the daughter of a wealthy businessman has enabled her to control many things around her. Unfortunately, there is one thing she can’t control – her visions of the future.
But she tries. She limits her exposure to suggestions that might lead to a vision. I’ll just predict test scores and prom dates, she decides. Visions about these frivolous matters will occupy my mind so I don’t have to see death and destruction. Or not.
So her fatal flaw is lust for control. She desires to run the show and do things her way. When working with a dragon, that is a highly unlikely scenario. If she can’t be in charge, then she will play an important role in things. And when she realizes her “gift” is not the one that will save the world, she has her dark moment.
We have dark moments in real life, too. There are times when we feel all is lost and can’t see how to resolve the problem. So are these moments brought on by our fatal flaw?
In my experience, I am a deeply flawed character. This should teach me that my story people should be deeply flawed if I want them to be believable and relatable. But is there one character trail that causes me to trip and fall on a regular basis? I’m not so sure.
According to the list of character types, I best fit into the type one category – The Perfectionist. I know this comes as a total surprise to those of you who know me.
If this list is accurate, my fatal flaw is supposed to be anger. Do I get angry at myself when I don’t measure up? Do I get angry at other people who don’t live up to my standards?
It’s an interesting thought. One I’ll be pondering for some time to come. I can’t say whether I’ll share my determination with you. Unless there is an overwhelming response to this post demanding that I do.
Are you willing to speculate on this topic? If so, you can find the character types and associated fatal flaws at this link. Check them out. Find yourself.
Do you believe your fatal flaw matches up with your character type? Is there such a thing as a fatal flaw for real people?