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What Is Your Central Character’s Fatal Flaw?

Ask Tough Questions, Write Better Screenplays

 

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by Script Reader Pro in How To Write A Screenplay
September 29, 2016 0 comments
fatal flaw

The following is a guest post by WGA screenwriter, Aaron Mendelsohn. 

Being a stickler about my protagonist’s fatal flaw is one of the key reasons I’ve managed to sustain a 20+ year successful writing career.

Early on I was pretty informal with how I did it, but as time went on, story-breaking my protagonist’s fatal flaw started crystalizing into a method that I would repeat with each new feature and pilot I commenced.

My method is simply this:

I ask myself a series of questions that prompt ideas about key character and their story points that I call The 11 Questions.

I use the 11 Questions to stress test every story I’m breaking, whether it’s for a feature film, pilot or TV series pitch, and one of my favorite questions is Question #5…

What Is The Central Character’s Fatal Flaw?

To me, the fatal flaw is one of the key story drivers. Most three-dimensional protagonists have a fatal flaw. It doesn’t mean they’re bad, or weak, or broken – they just have a chink in the armor

  • Maybe they’re selfish, or greedy, or obsessed with a less-than-desirable goal or love interest.
  • Or they’re haunted by a tragic event from their past.
  • Or, if the central character is an assassin or mob boss, maybe their fatal flaw is their compassion.

Whatever it is, in spite of the noblest intentions, that one flaw in their character will inevitably set them on the wrong course in the second act until they realize the error of their ways and get back on track.

Ultimately, it’s the fatal flaw that the protagonist must confront and overcome in the climax of the story to successfully complete their journey.

When you use questions like this to guide you through your story-breaking, the key is to answer truthfully.

If you try to “cheat” and come up with an answer that’s vague or that twists a notion you already have in your head so it kinda-sorta fits the question, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

That’s just lazy writing.

When you answer your questions truthfully, however, and with a lot of thought and substance, you end up with the foundation for a better screenplay.

###

Aaron Mendelsohn is a working screenwriter, a professor of screenwriting at Loyola-Marymount University, and the Secretary-Treasurer of the Writers Guild of America West.

He is best known for Disney’s Air Bud, which spawned eleven sequels. Current projects include a Warner Bros feature, a Spike TV drama series and a Hallmark movie. Aaron’s story-breaking method is now available as an ebook: The 11 Fundamental Questions: A Guide To A Better Screenplay.

For a limited time, he’s offering a 20% discount to Script Reader Pro readers. Go to www.11questionsbook.com for more information.

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