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General Trek Discussion Trek TV and cinema subjects not related to any specific series or movie.

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Old November 21 2012, 03:13 AM   #1
LobsterAfternoon
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Do flaws make good characters great?

I was thinking earlier about, generally speaking, what makes for interesting characters. Obviously the idea of them seeming like real people is key, but to boil it down further, what makes them seem real? Is it their flaws? The great Trek characters are all pretty flawed:

Kirk: Cocky
Spock: Lies to himself about how logical he is, sometimes refuses to see the value in emotion
McCoy: Hot tempered

Picard: Distant
Data: Doesn't understand the emotions of others

Is being flawed/showing flaws what separates great characters like these from fun but less beloved characters like Sulu or Riker?
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Old November 21 2012, 03:26 AM   #2
Mr. Laser Beam
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Re: Do flaws make good characters great?

The occasional irregularity, maybe.

Too many flaws make characters WEAK.
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Old November 21 2012, 03:33 AM   #3
LobsterAfternoon
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Re: Do flaws make good characters great?

Where do you draw the line? Is Reg Barclay too flawed to be a good character? What about Quark?
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Old November 21 2012, 03:39 AM   #4
teacake
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Re: Do flaws make good characters great?

Kai Winn is a great character and it is all about her flaws. Dukat is an utter sociopath which is surely a huge flaw and he is an epic character.

I think people admire the flaws of villains but you have tread carefully with the flaws of heroes.
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Old November 21 2012, 03:48 AM   #5
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Re: Do flaws make good characters great?

It's not just about being flawed. It's about being flesh-and-blood human beings, with vices and virtues, strengths and weaknesses, conflicting emotions and priorities, moments of determination and moments of doubt.

That was the great thing about Kirk. He wasn't just a perfect paragon of virtue. He lost his temper sometimes, could be plagued by guilt or doubt, but he could also be cool under pressure and maintain a sense of humor most of the time. He was a complete character who sweated and bled and made mistakes sometimes, but always came through the end.
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Old November 21 2012, 05:06 AM   #6
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Re: Do flaws make good characters great?

LobsterAfternoon wrote: View Post
Where do you draw the line? Is Reg Barclay too flawed to be a good character? What about Quark?
Barclay was my favorite because he was flawed.
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Old November 21 2012, 09:58 AM   #7
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Re: Do flaws make good characters great?

teacake wrote: View Post
you have tread carefully with the flaws of heroes
You can't go there in every episode.

Letting Picard be a pompous opinionated blow-hard on occasion is interesting, leaving the door open to Jean-Luc's personal asylum for seven straight years would have been a bad idea.


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Old November 22 2012, 04:21 AM   #8
JirinPanthosa
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Re: Do flaws make good characters great?

Dukat isn't a great character because he's a sociopath, he's a great character because of the way he talks the talk of a tragic hero and kind of almost convinces you he's not a sociopath, if you stop paying attention to his actions.

It's not flaws that make a character great. It's the greater picture of the character, the pattern of behavior that in one situation is a virtue and in another situation is a flaw. It's what makes a character different and unique, known but unpredictable, as if they're a real person and you can't wait to see what they'll do next.

Picard by his age and old school intellectual aloofness makes him different from any other scifi hero, but nobody but Stewart could have made it work. Imagine anyone else sounding cool ordering earl grey tea.
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Old November 22 2012, 11:01 PM   #9
emergencyfruit
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Re: Do flaws make good characters great?

LobsterAfternoon wrote: View Post
I was thinking earlier about, generally speaking, what makes for interesting characters. Obviously the idea of them seeming like real people is key, but to boil it down further, what makes them seem real? Is it their flaws? The great Trek characters are all pretty flawed:

Kirk: Cocky
Spock: Lies to himself about how logical he is, sometimes refuses to see the value in emotion
McCoy: Hot tempered

Picard: Distant
Data: Doesn't understand the emotions of others

Is being flawed/showing flaws what separates great characters like these from fun but less beloved characters like Sulu or Riker?
I don't see them as flaws. Calling them flaws implies that they would be stronger, more admirable, or generally better people without these traits, which I don't think is true. We saw this exact argument unfold in "The Enemy Within" - all these characters need their "flaws" in order to be effective at their jobs and in their relationships. A non-cocky Kirk is one without the power of command.

I think it's the very fact that so many of the characters are at peace with their traits that make them engaging and interesting. Instead of angst-ing over their flaws (Spock and Data excepted, on some level), they put them to good use, something we all can aspire to.
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Old November 23 2012, 03:05 PM   #10
bbailey861
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Re: Do flaws make good characters great?

Character flaws and character traits make good characters real. That makes for a much more enjoyable read. None of us are perfect and it is good (sometimes) if there are things we see in the characters that we also may see (or want to see) in ourselves.
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Old November 23 2012, 10:07 PM   #11
Temis the Vorta
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Re: Do flaws make good characters great?

Depends on the flaw and how its used. Cable TV in particular sure is in love with flawed characters so they've become symbolic of "better" drama.

Kirk being cocky wasn't a signal flaw for him because it never seemed to cause him inordinant problems. His signal flaw, if he had one, was being overly dedicated to Starfleet, to the exception of his personal life. That theme popped up every so often as a source of angst for him.

But Kirk was not so much the standard flawed individual so much as a fascinatingly complicated person. Anyone who could be both too cocky and too serious has got a lot going on. Ditto for his girl-in-every-port attitude contrasted with his apparently sincere caring for his crew...that's not an emotionally shallow person there.

Spock was more of the flawed-type with the single, signal flaw, and that was also used to good effect. I see a lot more Spock types of characters vs Kirks in fiction. Probably easier to focus on the signal flaw of a Spock type when writing him vs trying to corrall all the complexity of a Kirk.

The one thing you don't want in a character (unless its a comedy) is a flaw that elicits contempt from the audience. A character can be a strutting egomaniac like Dukat and still have fans because he's not a weakling.

I'll have to drag in poor Anakin Skywalker one more time for a counter-example: he was also a psycho, but the wrong kind, a weakling - stupid and overly dependent on the emotional support of others. All Lucas had to do was write the guy like Dukat and cast an actor to suit, and maybe it still wouldn't have worked but it wouldn't have flopped quite so badly.
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Old November 24 2012, 07:14 AM   #12
sbk1234
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Re: Do flaws make good characters great?

Not simply having flaws, but showing how the character can deal with them, and overcome and/or learn from them, I think, is one element that can make for a truly interesting character.
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Old November 24 2012, 07:27 PM   #13
Drago-Kazov
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Re: Do flaws make good characters great?

teacake wrote: View Post
Kai Winn is a great character and it is all about her flaws. Dukat is an utter sociopath which is surely a huge flaw and he is an epic character.

I think people admire the flaws of villains but you have tread carefully with the flaws of heroes.
Was he? Dukat treated Kira's mother quite wel.
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Old November 24 2012, 10:34 PM   #14
R. Star
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Re: Do flaws make good characters great?

Drago-Kazov wrote: View Post
teacake wrote: View Post
Kai Winn is a great character and it is all about her flaws. Dukat is an utter sociopath which is surely a huge flaw and he is an epic character.

I think people admire the flaws of villains but you have tread carefully with the flaws of heroes.
Was he? Dukat treated Kira's mother quite wel.
Oh yes, a most benevolent rapist and victimizer. No matter how gilded it is, a cage is still a cage.
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Old November 25 2012, 12:02 AM   #15
Drago-Kazov
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Re: Do flaws make good characters great?

He is patially sociophatic, not completly.
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