List of character flaws (150+) with examples

ko-fi Written by Andruid
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Two hands pressed against a glass pane and the text: List of character flaws.

A free list of character flaws you can use to make your characters more dynamic, relatable, and compelling. Over 150+ options!


Table of Contents

    Flaws can make your characters more dynamic, relatable, and compelling. They’re a great way to humanize your characters and give them depth.

    To that end, I’ve created a comprehensive list of character flaws you can use in your writing and roleplay.

    The types of flaws covered here fall into five broad categories:

    • Allergies
    • Physical characteristics
    • Fears (phobias)
    • Personality traits
    • Other

    The list is skimmable, straightforward, and designed to help you quickly and easily find some flaws that will work for your character concepts.

    Toward the end of this post, I’ll also explain the difference between major and minor character flaws, as well as how to avoid offending others while using them.

    List of character flaws by category

    The items in this character flaws list are grouped by category to make it easier to choose flaws from among different types.

    It’s not an exhaustive list but is intended to give breadth (and some depth) to the possibilities.

    For more depth, I’ve provided links to external resources that cover certain topics more fully.

    Let’s dive in!

    Allergies

    Chances are, you have an allergy or are related to someone with an allergy, so you know just how much they suck.

    Allergies can be mild and inconvenient, or they can pose life-threatening danger. They can be common or quite rare.

    People can be allergic to nearly anything, so there’s a really wide variety of flaws to choose from in this category.

    Eggs, legumes, nuts, shellfish, and other allergens.
    Allergies to foods are very common and can range in severity from mild to fatal.

    Some well-known real-life allergens and irritants include:

    Alcohol or Other Liquids

    • Wine: Some people are allergic to sulfites in wine.
    • Beer: Allergies to hops or wheat can make beer a no-go.

    Insects

    • Bees, Wasps, or Ants: Anaphylactic reactions can be life-threatening.
    • Mosquitoes: Some people have more severe reactions to mosquito bites.

    Chemicals

    • Cleaning Products: Allergies to bleach or ammonia.
    • Perfumes: Allergic reactions to certain scents or fragrance components.

    Drugs or Medicines

    • Antibiotics: Penicillin allergies are quite common.
    • Pain Relievers: Allergies to aspirin or ibuprofen.

    Foods

    • Dairy: Lactose intolerance or milk allergy.
    • Nuts: Not just peanuts, but also tree nuts like almonds and cashews.
    • Shellfish: Including shrimp, crab, and lobster.
    • Strawberries: Some people have a histamine intolerance.
    • Gluten: Wheat allergies or celiac disease.

    Latex

    • Medical Gloves: Latex gloves used in healthcare settings.
    • Condoms: Latex-based condoms can cause allergic reactions.

    Mold

    • Black Mold: Common in damp environments.
    • Food Mold: Like the kind found on certain cheeses or bread.

    Pets

    • Dogs: Allergies to dander, saliva, or even urine.
    • Cats: Similar to dogs but can be more severe for some people.
    • Birds: Feather dust can be an allergen.
    • Rodents: Allergies to proteins in urine, dander, or saliva.

    Pollen

    • Ragweed: A common cause of hay fever.
    • Grass Pollen: From lawns and fields.
    • Tree Pollen: From various types of trees, depending on the season.

    Smoke

    • Tobacco Smoke: Can cause respiratory issues.
    • Wood Smoke: From fireplaces or wood-burning stoves.

    See the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America website for more information and examples.

    If you’re writing for/roleplaying in a fictional setting, you can also make up your own allergens and vulnerabilities.

    Everyone’s heard of kryptonite, right? 😁

    Physical characteristics

    No one is perfect, and the vast majority of us would change something about our bodies or appearance if we could.

    There are many, many character flaws that could go in this list, but here’s an assortment to get your creative juices flowing:

    Facial Features

    • Unique nose shape
    • Distinctive teeth
    • Heterochromia (different colored eyes)
    • Birthmark
    • Facial scars
    • Unusual moles

    Hair and Skin

    • Graying hair
    • Skin condition (eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, etc.)
    • Sensitive or uneven skin tone
    • Hair texture (curly, straight, etc.)

    Sensory and Health Conditions

    • Low vision
    • Hearing difficulties
    • Frequent illness (vulnerable immune system)
    • Unique bone structure (considerate term for brittle bones)

    Body and Posture

    • Varied body shapes and sizes (short, tall, wide, narrow, etc.)
    • Distinctive posture or gait
    • Varied muscle tone

    Personal Choices and Traits

    • Tattoos with stories behind them
    • Unique facial hairstyles
    • Personal style choices (like footwear)

    Other Unique Characteristics

    • Calluses from work or activities
    • Unusual eye movements (like a twitch)
    • Distinctive smile or expression

    The key here is that in order for the item to be considered a character flaw, it needs to be something that creates conflict or presents a challenge.

    For example, having huge feet isn’t really a flaw unless the character is self-conscious about it, gets teased for it, or trips a lot.

    Similarly, if a character’s gray hairs are portrayed in a positive light (makes them look “distinguished”), then it’s more of a feature and less of a flaw.

    The point is, it’s all in how you write it and want it to be perceived.

    Just remember to avoid turning flaws into caricatures that might upset others in your community or audience. The goal is to make your characters more relatable, not to make your readers feel belittled or marginalized.

    Fears

    Phobias are extremely common and can range in severity from mild to crippling.

    A person can have a fear of pretty much anything – even a fear of fears (phobophobia)! – so there’s a huge realm of possibility here.

    In fact, you probably have at least one or two phobias, yourself.

    A close-up of an adorable jumping spider and an emojii with heart eyes.
    Personally, I think spiders are awesome, but a fear of spiders is quite common, which is why as a flaw it can make a character more relatable.

    Here is a list of character fears to get your creative juices flowing (unless you have a fear of juice, in which case pretend I didn’t say that):

    Natural Elements

    • Cold / ice / snow
    • Fire
    • Water
    • Thunder or loud noises

    Animals and Creatures

    • Animals, such as cats, dogs, or bats
    • Insects and other creepy crawlies
    • Snakes (deserve their own mention)
    • Spiders (arachnids are not insects, so they get their own bullet point too)
    • Aliens

    Medical and Health-Related

    • Bacteria
    • Being bitten
    • Cancer
    • Choking
    • Dentists
    • Disease
    • Doctors
    • Dying, death, or dead things
    • Needles / injections

    Emotional and Psychological

    • Darkness
    • Dreams
    • Intimacy
    • Loss
    • People
    • Public speaking
    • Social situations
    • Strangers
    • Colors

    Situational and Environmental

    • Driving
    • Drowning
    • Enclosed spaces
    • Falling
    • Flying
    • Heights
    • Open spaces
    • Space (as in outer space)

    The fears list above includes some of the more common phobias. For more specific ideas (including phobia names), you might try this list of phobias.

    If you’re writing for a fictional setting, you might also think about things like fear of magic, dragons, teleportation, etc.

    Personality and behavior

    This section contains character flaws that have to do with one’s personality, manners, or behavior. These are sometimes referred to as negative character traits or character weaknesses.

    Thus, a list like this is sometimes called a “list of character weaknesses” or “character defects list.”

    I don’t really like the terms “character defects” or “defects in one’s character,” but regardless of what you call them, there are many flaws having to do with personality traits or behavior.

    Some of these include:

    Emotional and Psychological Traits

    • Anxious
    • Apathetic or jaded
    • Cowardly
    • Cynical
    • Emotional
    • Emotionless
    • Gullible
    • Insecure
    • Jealous
    • Morbid
    • Paranoid
    • Pessimistic
    • Shy
    • Timid

    Social and Interpersonal Traits

    • Abrasive
    • Arrogant
    • Biased
    • Childish
    • Condescending
    • Cruel
    • Dishonest
    • Gossipy
    • Humorless
    • Ignorant
    • Impatient
    • Loud
    • Narcissistic
    • Prejudiced (Note: Use this flaw carefully in RP settings)
    • Pretentious
    • Rebellious
    • Reclusive
    • Reserved
    • Rude
    • Selfish or self-absorbed
    • Tactless
    • Vain

    Behavioral and Lifestyle Traits

    • Crude
    • Greedy
    • Lazy
    • Materialistic
    • Messy
    • Perfectionist
    • Stubborn
    • Superstitious
    • Volatile

    If you’re just looking for a list of character flaws that fall into this category, you might also find this collection of Negative Traits useful.

    And don’t forget to put some thought into positive traits, too! Every good story needs a villain, and just like heroes need flaws to make them more relatable, positive traits can do the same thing for antagonists.

    Of course, the right positive traits can also make your heroes more compelling, but balance is key.

    Roleplaying flaws such as prejudice

    The word STOP painted at a crosswalk.
    If you’re choosing character flaws for a TTRPG or roleplaying game, there are important things to consider before you decide to play a character that is prejudiced.

    Character flaws having to do with prejudice and discrimination can be tricky in a roleplaying context.

    Many games outright forbid things like racism and sexism – not just because these things are triggering and divisive but because the admins want to avoid promoting them, even in make-believe settings.

    If you’re using this list of character flaws for the purposes of creating a character for a writing or roleplaying game, please make sure you fully understand the rules and expectations of the game you’re playing and try to be considerate of how your roleplay will affect others.

    At the end of the day, there are a lot of other flaws to choose from that are less controversial but can still create in-character conflict and tension.

    Other disadvantages

    This last group in the list of character flaws contains anything and everything I could think of that didn’t fit neatly in the previous sections, though there might be some overlap.

    Some are popular tropes or mannerisms, some are legitimate medical disorders, and some have to do with skills or demographics.

    Again, nothing in this list is meant to offend. Be sensitive toward your audience, and remember that the point is to humanize your characters.

    Psychological and Behavioral Traits

    • Compulsion, such as to count things, close doors, etc.
    • Devil (or angel) on the shoulder
    • False belief
    • Fidgety
    • Haunted by a dark past, mistake, or regret
    • Ill-fated
    • Multiple personalities
    • Obsession
    • Packrat
    • Says “yes” to everything
    • Trouble remembering names or faces
    • Unlucky
    • Vice or addiction
    • Wallflower

    Physical and Health-Related Traits

    • Amnesiac
    • Bad aim
    • Can’t dance
    • Clumsy
    • Disease or malady (including fictional ones)
    • Epileptic
    • Insomniac
    • Irritable bowel
    • Narcoleptic
    • Old or aging
    • Other sensory, such as synesthesia
    • Puberty
    • Tonedeaf / can’t sing

    Social and Economic Disadvantages

    • Criminal history
    • Financially poor
    • Homeless
    • Illiterate or unable to do math
    • Inexperienced
    • On the run
    • Orphaned
    • Technologically challenged
    • Widowed or widower
    • Young (can definitely be a challenge)

    When referring to flaws that can be described as medical disorders or disabilities, I recommend looking over the Disability Language Style Guide.

    It’s a resource for writers and journalists that can help you use generally accepted language and avoid writing about disabilities in an offensive way.

    Now that you have a sense for the possibilities, it’s time to talk about what a character flaw actually is – and what it is not.

    What is a character flaw?

    When one talks about flaws in a person, they often mean flaws in one’s moral fiber, such as a bias or prejudice that affects their sense of right and wrong.

    But character flaws can actually be anything about a character that poses challenges, creates conflict, affects their interactions, or drives their story.

    Also, it’s important to note that while people tend to use the terms “character flaw” or “character defect” interchangeably, nothing here is meant to cast real people in a negative light.

    The list above is merely a tool for use in one’s creative writing.

    After all, one of the reasons people write and roleplay is to step out of their own shoes and imagine what it would be like to walk in someone else’s.

    It’s a way to foster empathy and respect for other human beings (or orcs, or elves!) – and that’s the spirit in which this article is written.

    Why are flawed characters interesting?

    Flawed characters are compelling because they create tension and add depth and realism to the story.

    As human beings, we all make mistakes, experience bad luck, and deal with our own imperfections. Thus, we often sympathize with flawed characters and want to know where their troubles will lead – whether toward success or failure.

    How many flaws should a character have?

    In literature, characters typically have one major flaw that drives their story and a few minor flaws that help them stand out in readers’ minds.

    Characters can also have something called a tragic flaw, which is a flaw that leads to their death or downfall.

    What is a minor flaw?

    Minor flaws are things that help distinguish the character in readers’ minds and make the character more interesting or relatable.

    These flaws often color interactions with other characters but aren’t the driving force behind the story or the main source of conflict.

    Examples of minor flaws

    • a limp from a poorly healed injury
    • an unattractive mole or scar
    • poor table manners
    • fear of horses
    • arrogant

    In other words, these are typically surface-level facts or details that make the character stand out, both to readers and other characters in the story.

    If you’re a roleplayer, these details might make for an interesting RP session when they come into play, but they’re probably not things that will impact your character’s story in a major way.

    However, they can be useful for avoiding the Gary Sue or Mary Sue trope.

    What is a major flaw?

    Major flaws are those that shape the character’s story arc. In literature, they’re often obstacles that must be overcome in order for the character to achieve success, growth, or significant change.

    In roleplay, they are often sources of conflict between player characters.

    Examples of major flaws

    • a drinking habit that causes the character to lose their job, partner, or friends
    • a fear of loss that causes a character to resist emotional attachments and prevents them from making lasting bonds
    • a false belief that causes the character to pursue something they don’t actually need
    • a desire for revenge that causes the character to burn bridges or get hurt

    As you can see from the above examples, whether a flaw is considered major or minor isn’t so much about the severity of the flaw itself.

    Rather, it’s about how important that flaw is for driving the character’s story.

    Thus, a limp by itself is a minor flaw. But if we give a character the false belief that they’re worthless because of their limp, we now have a major flaw that can impact many more parts of their story.

    With that in mind, let’s take a look at the list!

    How to use the character flaws in this list

    So you’ve chosen a few items from the list of character flaws. What’s next?

    Everyone’s creative process is different, but one of the reasons to choose flaws in the first place is to give the character something that will help drive their story, such as a challenge they must grapple with in some way.

    You can use flaws to:

    • Create more believable, relatable characters (again, no one’s perfect)
    • Add diversity to your writing and/or game (see this post for tips on how to do it respectfully)
    • Create obstacles that must be overcome
    • Color a character’s interactions with their social or physical environment
    • Create conflict and tension with other characters (or player characters, in roleplay)
    • Create unrealized issues to be confronted later
    • Plan out their death, downfall, success, or a turning point when either is possible
    • Give depth to background characters or NPCs in a text-based RPG

    Personally, I like to reserve a couple of less obvious flaws to reveal slowly or subtly over time to keep things interesting, but how you use the list of character flaws is up to you!


    Frequently Asked Questions

    Why are character flaws important in storytelling and roleplay?

    Character flaws add layers of complexity to your characters, making them more relatable and compelling. They provide opportunities for conflict, growth, and resolution, which are essential elements in storytelling and roleplay.

    How do I choose the right flaws for my character?

    Choosing the right flaws depends on the character’s role in the story and what you want to achieve with them.

    Here are some tips: 1) If your character needs to overcome a challenge, a related flaw can add depth to that journey, 2) make sure the flaw is believable and fits well with the character’s background and personality, and 3) don’t overload your character with flaws; a few well-chosen ones are more effective.

    Are there any flaws that are considered “too much” or inappropriate?

    While flaws make characters interesting, some can be problematic if they perpetuate harmful stereotypes or are overly graphic. Always consider the impact of the flaws you choose, especially if your story or roleplay is meant for a broad audience.

    How can I introduce a character’s flaws without making it obvious?

    To introduce a character’s flaws without making it obvious, use the writing rule “Show, Don’t Tell“: let the flaw reveal itself through actions and consequences. You can also hint at the flaw via dialogue.


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    About the author

    Andruid is a writer, roleplayer, storyteller, and nerd who tries to live by Bill and Ted wisdom, i.e. “Be excellent to each other.”