Photo by Saeed Karimi, Unsplash

I’m certain you learned in English class that all characters must have a flaw. This is what stops them from attaining their goal. It’s what gets in the way of their relationships. But where does that flaw come from?

It comes from the character’s wound. I know I’ve discussed wounds on this blog before, but just a quick recap:

A wound is something that happened in the character’s life—usually when they were young—that completely changes their life. For Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, her wound is when her parents died, and she had to be taken in by her aunt and uncle. In Good Will Hunting (the movie used by Michael Hauge—from whom I originally learned about wounds—as his example), Will was wounded when his father told him he was stupid and would never amount to anything.

From this wound comes a belief. This belief colors how your character sees the world. It determines what they do and how they behave. For Dorothy, when her aunt and uncle tell her to go away—someplace where she won’t get into any trouble—she believes that they don’t want her, that perhaps they will abandon her just as her parents did when they died. She determines that she will show them that she doesn’t need them either and runs away. It takes her the entire movie to realize that she is loved and wanted. For Will, he has to realize that his father was wrong. He is intelligent and can do some­thing wonderful and significant with his life.

The key point here—and, yes, I know I took a really long time to get here—is that in your story, your character must realize, intellectually, what their belief is. They need to understand that what they believe isn’t actually true. And they must make up their mind to change.

With this change, the character will be able to achieve their goal or have a meaningful relationship. Only with this change can they become a happy, fulfilled human being (or alien, vampire, whatever).

Once the character determines that this is what they will do and begin to do so, they must be tested—usually around the “black” or “all is lost” moment in the book. Do they really want to change? Are they willing to do whatever it takes to make that change, because it would be so much easier and more comfortable to fall back on that belief and just stay there?

In a romance, this change must happen or else they won’t get to stay with their love. So, their choice is staying the way they have always been and alone, or change and get the person they want. It may seem like an easy choice, but change is always hard and it’s frequently painful, but the alternative must be worse.

So, consider your character’s wound. Think about the belief that comes from that wound and you will have a major plotline in your story as the character realizes they have this belief and that it is wrong, and they have to change.

Good luck!