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I've been creative writing all my life, though with various haitus(es) along the way. IFrom 2010 I started this blog and enjoyed sharing writing and other information with everyone. illness and bereavement supplied the more recent hiatus.

Friday, 31 December 2010

Quirky versus Flawed

Now that I am back from visiting rellies I'd like to follow on another post to your fabulous discussions regarding Dysfunctional Protagonists.

So characters can be quirky without being flawed and vice versa. It's the quirky traits that stand out as endearing while the flaws are seen as stepping stones to maturity and awareness.

It is this that make the characters most memorable.

QUIRKY having or characterised by peculiar or unexpected traits /Out of the ordinary features.

e.g. Luna Lovegood

FLAWED marked, blemished or having other imperfections that createsa fault or weakness in a person's character/ personaity; mistake or shortcoming, making the characters much more real; more human.

e.g. Marvin the Paranoid Android suffers from extreme depression in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
One could also argue that as an android he is also quirky.

While both types of character stimulate our imaginations, our emotions and our interest, the trick seems to be in creating characters that the reader doesn't of tire too quickly and that they can still relate to and feel some empathy for despite any apparent flaws.

It is certainly food for thought when deigning one's characters for fiction.
Characters should have flaws to be well rounded and acceptably human, but how many of those characters we read are truly quirky?


  1. I have been enjoying this debate! Your choice of Marvin is interesting. I would have classed him as quirky, but in the context of this discussion I think I agree that his world-view (perhaps I should say universe-view!) is a character flaw - and yet an endearing one. Why? Because it doesn't do any harm to anyone else. Zaphod Beeblebrox, on the other hand, is so egotistical that he endangers others in his recklessness (in a comedic way of course!). Zaphod is almost an antagonist to Arthur Dent so this is acceptable. In the MC it would be unpleasant. One quirky character I have a fond spot for is Professor Branestawm (13 childrens stories by Norman Hunter). His quirkiness is not a flaw because he is not malicious in his dottiness. Is this I wonder the key? A person who muddles through life as best they can despite their flaws is quirky, whilst a person who uses their flaws to gain an advantage over others (or even just one who does not care whether their flaws adversely affect others) is, well, flawed. On this premise, an antagonist who is merely quirky is unlikely to have the necessary edge. A protagonist whose flaw is dominant is likely to become a pain in the b.t.m.!


  2. I think the trick is if the flaws and quirks are so huge that the reader can't relate the the character. There's a lot of leeway, a lot an author can do with a character before they're so strange that their reader's can't relate.

    Perhaps the trick isn't in how many odd and different things a character does, but in how many things they struggle with that everyone else does. Things that make them easy to relate to.

  3. LOL Dom you've caught me out again. Yes you are right Zaphod is a much better example. He could be seen as an irritatingly quirky character. I will have to look out for Norman Hunter's books. I have never heard of them.

    Angela, I agree the character traits have to be ones that don't annoy or exasperate too much, but are memorable and likeable. :O)

  4. I keep going on about Terry Pratchett and his Discworld books but by golly he gets the quirky, flawed and quirkily flawed characters down to a tee!! All his protagonists are not glowingly good or horrendously evil. His Death is certainly quirky. His Captain Sam Vimes is definitely heroic yet very flawed. I can't get enough of his world!! I think he makes all his characters at the very basic, most humane and redeemable.

    Take care

  5. Ah yes Kitty, I have read one of his books and I see what you mean. Though as you point out there are some of his characters that are more memorable than others :O)

  6. I'm running through all the books I can think of and seeing if they fit into either of the categories....

    I thought of Pippin from LOTR. His flaws actually proved valuable (the seeing stone incident, saving Faramir), yet it eventually cost Gandalf his life. Still, he came back more powerful than ever....

    On a personal note, I hate the way he (Pippin) was portrayed in the movies.

    I have to give this more consideration. It's an intriguing discussion.....

  7. Great contribution wordscrafter :O) I never read all of Lord of Rings, but saw Pippin in the film version.
    Your point makes me think of Becky Sharpe of Vanity Fair because the best portrayal of her flaws was done by Reece Witherspoon. All previous renditions of the character made her seem less real. :O)

  8. Becky Sharpe is fascinating. She is most definitely flawed, not quirky, and I think you would call her an anti-heroine? I haven't read the book, only seen one of the film versions, but I certainly didn't connect (perhaps you aren't meant to?) and in the end, I was left stone cold, not really caring what happened to her.

    Would you say that the/one purpose of giving your protagonist a flaw (as opposed to a quirk) is that in overcoming that flaw they give the reader hope for their own struggles? A quirk is there for amusement and a reader is not meant to identify with it as such?

    Thinking of Lord of the Rings, Sam does not appear to have any flaws. His loyalty and bravery are heart warming and the reader is very fond of him, but he is not very interesting. Arwen is perfection and (at least in the books) is not very interesting either.

    So ... secondary characters need to be quirky to be interesting, the antagonist needs to be flawed to have the appropriate edge and the MC needs to overcome everyday flaws with which the reader can identify. On the other hand every good writer knows when to break the rules! LOL

  9. Ah but the most memorable *main* characters are quirky aren't they?
    The quirky side kick supporting characters can be annoying.
    I suppose flaws are meant to help readers relate to the characters, make the characters seem human and ripe for growth. Hence the reader grows/learns along with them perhaps?
    Did you see the Reece Witherspoon version? It is heads and shoulders above the rest. :O)

  10. Great debate and really fun examples... Well done all!

    Have a wonderful year Madeleine. And to all your friends.


  11. Happy New Year, Madeleine!!! May 2011 be your best year yet!

  12. Thank you Jingle, Michael and Laura. Blessings for 2011 to you and of course to Becky, Old Kitty, Dom and Angela too. :O)

  13. Nice examples...
    I loved reading this post.. :)
    Happy New Year :)


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