I find it kinda odd how people talk about writing “flawed” characters like the flaws are an afterthought

Like “cool cool we’ve got this perfect hero now to just sprinkle on some Irritability and Trust Issues then microwave for 6 minutes on high until Done”

But I’ve personally found it feels a lot more useful to just… think of the flaws as the Good Traits except bad this time

The protagonist is loyal? Maybe that means they have a hard time recognizing toxic relationships and are easily manipulated by those they want to trust

The hero is compassionate? Maybe they work too hard and overextend themselves trying to help people and then they refuse to ask for help when they need it themselves for fear of burdening others

They’re dedicated to their ideals? Maybe they’re also too stubborn to know when to quit and they have trouble apologizing for their mistakes

If they’re creative, they can also be flighty. If they’re confident, they can be arrogant. If they’re brave, they might be reckless. If they’re smart, they could be condescending. Protective can become controlling, and someone who’s carefree could very well also be emotionally distant

In my opinion, the best “flaws” aren’t just added on afterwards. The best flaws are baked in deep, ‘cause they’re really just virtues turned upside down

Additionally: the same, but backwards. A person’s greatest strengths often (but not always!) come from fighting their weaknesses, but in emotional situations they may fall back on old habits and reveal that the underlying weakness is still there, it’s just usually manageable.

For example, I know people who have ADHD (myself included) and have had to develop really strong organizational skills to combat it. So we may actually have some parts of organization down pat, like scheduling and writing everything down and making sure everything has a place, and yet we’ll still be the first to forget our hat, our wallet, or what we were about to say when we opened our mouth half a second ago, especially when we’re tired or stressed.

This helps write complex characters with seemingly contradictory but still believable traits: a woman who is insecure may always speak very positively about her accomplishments and write little uplifting “you can do it!” notes around the house for herself, but when she’s fighting the big bad she may run away because she doesn’t think she stands a chance.

A man who has been told he talks too quickly to be understood may develop perfect enunciation and diction. But he has chronic pain, and when it kicks in it takes up enough mental energy that he starts speed-talking like an auctioneer on crack.

Overcompensation is human, and having a break in that overcompensation is even more human. Just worth bearing in mind.