Do You Give Angel Characters Flaws or Not?

Question: Hi. I'd first just like to say that your website has helped me out a lot. I'm currently writing a book that has characters that are angels. I would like to know, do you give them flaws or not?

Answer: Thanks for your kind comments.

I would say you should probably give an angel flaws, especially if they are the main character or have relationships with other characters. Perfect characters are a tad dull. They only become interesting, if at all, when other characters react to them in interesting ways.

As a main character, perfect characters seldom work because no one can relate to a character who is perfect. We can empathize with characters who have faults and problems because those things make them like us. Besides, if a character is perfect, every problem becomes too easy for them to solve, which makes for a dull story.

Even if you want to make your angels morally perfect (however you choose to define that), they could have limitations or weaknesses in other areas, so the reader can at least sympathize with their situation. For instance, Marley's ghost in "A Christmas Carol" has moral wisdom, but is limited in that he cannot directly intervene to help people in need (he needs Scrooge to do it for him).

You might get away with a perfect angel who appears briefly in the story as a guardian figure -- like the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella or the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio. But it's best if such characters send the main character on their journey
and then bow out of the story. Main characters must wrestle with problems and make their own choices. They can't have a perfect being to turn to every time the going gets tough. And they can't be perfect themselves, because then every problem is easy to solve. When a story has no real problems and there's no risk of failure, it becomes dull and predictable.

Incidentally, the same is true for any character with superior traits, such as superheroes or geniuses. If your character has extraordinary abilities, it's usually better to humanize them by giving them flaws in other areas. Maybe you give your super-genius difficulty with relationships or a phobia. Maybe they are a brilliant painter but bad at math.

For example, in the Illiad, Achilles was an unbeatable fighter, but had one spot where he was vulnerable (Achilles' heel). Another example is Cassandra, who had the superior gift of prophesy, but was also cursed in that no one ever believed her prophesies until after they came to pass. Superman has his kryptonite. Sherlock Holmes has his fondness for cocaine. Spock's staggering intellect is balanced with his lack of emotional intelligence

Basic rule of thumb: make your characters seem human even if they are not. A character who is perfect is less human and less relatable, because every human reading the story knows they have their own flaws. (Anyone who thinks they are perfect is suffering from flaws such as pride or hubris.) Balance your character's extraordinary strengths with weaknesses, especially a character you want your reader to feel empathy with.

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