Learn & Become A Better Screenwriter
Television and Webseries have flawed characters too (they better!), and we get to see their flaws more in-depth because we spend more time with them overall. This makes them interesting enough for us to tune in every episode and watch their personal struggles.
There are two types of flaw in Television and Webseries: Series Character Flaw and Episode Character Flaw. Both are used in any respective episode of a show.
The Series Character Flaw is the primary flaw, trait, or issue that a Series Protagonist will exhibit throughout the run of the show. It represents a base line for how the character commonly behaves and what the audience can expect to see from them in most episodes. In general a Series Character Flaw will not be resolved or changed throughout the entire series, except possibly at the conclusion.
In Mad Men Don Draper is secretive, self-destructive, and a womanizer. These traits do not get resolved, but are investigated in many episodes of the show.
In your Open Screenplay you can assign to each Series Protagonist their own Series Character Flaw.
An Episode Character Flaw is the changeable flaw, trait, or issue that a Protagonist will have in a specific storyline of a single episode. This issue will be changed or resolved by the end of the episode - whether positively, negatively, or ironically. These issues are often different ideas than Series Character Flaws.
In any particular episode of Mad Men, Don can be upset about a friend’s death, angry at his wife, or insensitive to a colleague. By the end of the episode some resolution of these Episodic Character Flaws will occur. In other words, the “temporary problem” will be resolved one way or another.
Sometimes an Episode Character Flaw will be a deeper look at a Series Character Flaw. In this case, usually the Series Character Flaw will be heightened or “pushed,” causing that flaw to temporarily get even worse, but by the end of the episode will be brought back to “normal levels.”
So in Mad Men, an episode could show Don being even more self-destructive than usual, but through the interactions with the Influencing Character for that storyline, will learn to dial it back.
In your Open Screenplay you can assign to the Protagonist (of each Storyline) their own Episodic Character Flaw.
Per the examples above, you could enter either “upset about a friend’s death,” “angry at his wife,” “insensitive to a colleague,” or “more self-destructive” as the Episode Character Flaw.
Though there are thousands of words and traits that are great to use as Character Flaws, there are also a number that are not. These can certainly be traits that your characters have, but they should be paired with another, more viable Character Flaw. Try not to use these traits as Character Flaws:
Medical or Psychological Conditions – Characters have no choice to “improve on” conditions that are physical or psychological.
e.g. ADHD/ADD, anorexia, bipolar disorder, depression, OCD, phobias, schizophrenia, Tourette’s Syndrome
Addictions – these are also medical/psychological conditions but merit mentioning in their own category.
e.g. alcoholism, drug addiction / junkie, sex addiction
“Opinion Words” – Words that mean different things to different people and are ultimately each person’s personal judgment are not specific enough to be precise Character Flaws.
e.g. dumb, fat, gross, odd, quirky, stupid, weird
Now that you know what Character Flaws are and how they work in different Types of stories, go ahead and give your characters issues. After all, other people’s problems are entertainment for the rest of us! If you’re still unsure what to put for a Series Character Flaw or an Episode Character Flaw, feel free to leave it blank and let other writers contribute suggestions.