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Interdimensional Observer

How to Handle Character Flaws?

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There is plenty of criticizing perfection in FE as of late. Alm, Corrin, Ike, Ephraim, Roy, Seliph, Marth- each and every one of these has been accused of perfectionism. Even when they do have flaws, they don't lead to significant consequences, and or the protagonist's friends and advisors do not criticize them for their flaws.

And on the opposite hand, you have fans criticizing characters with flaws that had real consequences, of Camuses, of Celica, and of Eirika.

Remove the hated flaws from the flawed, and they risk being perfect. Add consequential flaws to the perfect, and you risk having them accused of being stupid people who made terrible decisions.

If FE fans don't want perfect protagonists, the question then becomes how to create... "understandable and real flaws"? Flaws with consequences that while fans will criticize (for making mistakes is a bad thing, IRL we wish everyone good was perfect all the time), they will on the whole see as "logical" or "within reason", or "not an extreme exaggeration of their character flaw", a flaw portrayed such that it could be called "good writing".

 

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How about Leif?

He makes mistakes and those mistakes do have consequences yet I don't see a lot of hate for the guy. Sure that might be in part because not a lot of people have played his game but still.

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I made a very similar thread in the past. Personally I think it's about balance. Furthermore, a character's hate base is not proof they are bad characters because every single character will have detractors no matter how well-written they may be. 

17 minutes ago, Hekselka said:

How about Leif?

He makes mistakes and those mistakes do have consequences yet I don't see a lot of hate for the guy. Sure that might be in part because not a lot of people have played his game but still.

I think flawed male lords, which are uncommon, get less flack for their flaws than their female counterparts. 

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I feel this is a case of either people not knowing what they want, or being careful what you wish for.

Edited by Jingle Jangle

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There's no such thing as a solution that'll please everyone. That's the problem.

Everyone listed has flaws. Marth's own sister referred to him as a weak, idealistic child. Roy, despite being a skilled tactician wasn't much of a unit. Seliph was vengeful (though perhaps justified). Ephraim hot-headed. Alm was ignorant of the workings of the world beyond Ram Village. Ike left Tellius without explanation. One could argue any given path in Fates is a result of Corrin's flaws.

It's just these flaws are significantly overshadowed by their positive points (in my opinion).

I feel that if any of the flaws were allowed to significantly impact the games story, they get criticized, and if they don't they get over-looked. If Ephraim's hotheadedness caused him to blunder into difficult maps through his route, you can bet you'd hear about it.

Fact is you can't please everyone.

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it's impossible to make a character everyone likes. And it's also possible to like a character as a well-written character, but dislike the actual character.

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While I don’t think there is any way to satisfy everyone I think the best way to handle character flaws is to make it apparent to the player why the character is the way they are and to make it feel organic. In Ghast’s recent support science ( which I didn’t finish because I didn’t have the time) he’s making the argument that Celicas actions in part 4 are because of her fanatic belief in Mila’s Ideals. Personally even if that is the case I don’t find that to be well displayed throughout the game and I find that still makes her a pretty shoddy character, but who knows maybe he’ll convince me once I finish the video.

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 I think that Sunwoo summed it up the best. There are always going to be people who dislike a character. Take Shinon for example. He's an coarse racist man who pushes even his own allies away from him at times. It should be pretty obvious why somebody would dislike him, but I think it would be silly to deny Shinon the complexity he has within his supports and dialogue. 

To actually contribute to what is being asked, I don't think there should be a set way of doing character flaws. I like both Shinon and Leaf, but they're flawed in two different ways. Shinon's flaws are in his very abrasive personality, which is offset primarily by his tender relationship with Rolf. Leif's flaw, his righteous zeal, isn't necessarily a flaw on paper, but it is something that gets him into trouble as early as Chapter 3. I think that flaws should be used to round out a character. A character with too little flaws is going to be ridiculed for being perfect, and an incompetent character is almost impossible to relate to or support. Flaws and Strengths should be treated organically. It's annoying when Corrin's flaws are handwaved because everybody's like "Don't worry Corrin, you're crippling naivete that almost got us all killed is endearing!". But it's also annoying when a character's flaws lack any basis in reason like Celica in her trust of Cackles Mcblueskin or almost all of the Camus archetypes.

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1 hour ago, Hekselka said:

How about Leif?

He makes mistakes and those mistakes do have consequences yet I don't see a lot of hate for the guy. Sure that might be in part because not a lot of people have played his game but still.

Bingo. Just wait for his game to get an Echoes remake if you want to see how the average person feels. I remember being particularly worried about Celica if they didn't change her ultimate role in the story. And my one wish for it was for them to be portrayed as equals. Let Celica accomplish something meaningful before she plays the damsel in the finale. If anything, the Act 4 rewrite caused more problems since Conrad has to swoop in and save her for a third time before finally joining her party.

Regarding the dislike of flawed and not-flawed characters, you could chalk it up to "Fire Emblem fans don't know what they want". But there would be no discussion there. If I were writing a Fire Emblem story, I would have my Lord look up to great leaders past who are only ever portrayed as faultless and perfect. As a leader, you need to project this aura of unwavernig competence, elsewise people won't follow you. But said story would not work in our modern Fire Emblem settings, because they are clearly post-Enlightenment where individual thought is valued above religious or patriotic devotions. Heck even the priests and clerics are inexplicably atheist. This could be its own thread, but let's focus on how this creates conflict with our perfect Lord. He wants to open up to people, but he can't. He can't seem weak. He'll open up once or twice to a sibling in a written letter, to his most trusted advisor, to that mysterious girl that keeps showing up in his chambers at night (this is still a Fire Emblem story). But support conversations between Lord and his soldiers? Would not be happening. Not until he realizes that a leader can earn his peoples' trust through avenues other than strength. Support Conversations open up after this revelation, and he slowly becomes a less depressed and more wise person.

So in short, when it comes to writing character flaws, I would make hiding those flaws part of the character arc. It makes more sense for it to be the case for the Lord who has societal expectations weighing down on him.

Edited by Glennstavos

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I personally prefer the explanation "different people have different tastes and you can't please everybody."

I doubt the people complaining about Marth being perfect and Eirika being dumb are the same.  It's just different people talking at different times.

Personally, I think it's mostly a matter of the execution of flaws.

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23 minutes ago, Jingle Jangle said:

I feel this is a care of either people not knowing what they want, or being careful what you wish for.

 

20 minutes ago, Sunwoo said:

it's impossible to make a character everyone likes. And it's also possible to like a character as a well-written character, but dislike the actual character.

These sum up pretty well how I feel on many of these characters. Camuses in particular. People want them to stop being stupid and join us when that's basically the whole point of the archetype. They're supposed to be otherwise admirable people who make arguably foolish decisions because of a tragic flaw, loyalty. That's basically the entirety of Greek tragedy. They're not meant to be characters the player is 100% supportive of.

Anyway, if I'm being cynical, make a character who is perfect but still have shitty things happen to them. It's been a bit since I've played FE7, but Eliwood from what I remember falls into that category and I can't say I've ever heard people complain about him. He goes to investigate his father's disappearance, always helps the needy along the way, finds out about an evil plot and decides to oppose it, etc. The only bad things that happen to him aren't his fault or even would've happened if he hadn't been involved in any way, those being his father and Ninian. The one would've happened regardless of whether he'd gone on his quest or not, and was arguably the best possible way for it to happen given the circumstances. The other was literally magic controlling Eliwood's body.

If I'm not being cynical, it depends on the story you're telling and whatnot. Is the point of the story to be an adventure where the MC faces external conflicts and has to overcome them (1), a la Indiana Jones (Pretty much flawless but people love him because Harrison Ford was a BAMF)? Or is it an internal conflict where the character has to come to terms with some aspect of themselves (2)? Or is it something in between, like a coming of age story where a character goes on a quest and along the way has to learn that their naive, idealistic worldview doesn't line up exactly and that they need to accept shades of grey (3)? Also, is it, to borrow classical terms, a comedy or a tragedy, you get hitched or you die? All those things need to be written differently.

For 1, you honestly don't really. The biggest flaw the character generally needs is the inability to overcome the obstacle immediately. The thing is those stories generally aren't seen as having as much literary worth as 2 or 3 in our society. On one hand, because I'm pretentious and like character pieces, I kind of agree, but on the other hand, I think it's rather overblown given that some of the greatest stories in the history of literature are exactly that, Beowulf for example.

For 2, of course you need to have a character with flaws. That's literally the point of the story, whether they're actually able to overcome those flaws or not. One of my favorite examples of that is Inside Llewyn Davis. I won't go into too much detail, but his flaws are setup, generally through showing, not telling, which is a plus, and his actions make sense in the context of them. You can argue he's an idiot or a snob (won't go into too much detail incase someone wants to watch it since it, unlike FE, isn't generally ubiquitously spoiled on here by community agreement), but all his actions make sense for everything the story gives us about him. The events and the character's response need to make sense and explain what it was that made them come to the realization of how to overcome their flaw or highlight what it is about their flaw that makes them fail to overcome it. You also need to make their flaw have consequences, otherwise they have no reason to want to overcome it.

For 3, you need a bit from column A and a bit from column B, and you need to balance them, in potential exchange for not having to go into as much scrutiny. That's not to say that you can make things unjustified, but since neither is the entire focus of the story, you can split beats between the MC overcoming the type 1 conflict and the type 2 conflict. FE9, IMO, does a decent job of this. One one hand, you have Ike who through all this fighting is training himself to overcome the BK and learn that he needs Ragnell, type 1,  but on the other hand also needs to learn to be a little less rash so as not to screw himself over, type 2, like he almost did in both Gallia, being rash basically leading to his dad getting killed, and Begnion, yelling at Sanaki. You don't so much see the benefits of the latter in PoR, but you do a ton in RD, which is part of why I can understand people wanting Ike to be a more minor character since his character arc is complete. He does also grow as a leader though, even if by the end he's still not super confident in himself.

Anyway, those are my two cents on how to handle character flaws. As many have said, I do agree that a lot of the complaints are about people wanting the stories to be a certain way. It seems like sometimes people want FE to be GoT, which it's not, nor does it want to be. It's in the vein of LotR, and in general does a fairly good job at that.

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I feel like flaws can be good for the story if used right. Corrin's flaw is overtrusting people, but he never learns from his mistakes in the story, in a good story flaws like this would get you killed and betrayed eventually. The other characters also acknowledge Corrin's flaw, but do nothing about it and just accept it. This shouldn't be because it makes the characters like Ryoma and Xander who's personalities are a no-lose type suddenly become willing to accept something that can lead to their defeat or of losing their little brother who they care so much about. It's an example of using flaws of a main character in an unrealistic and unmeaningful way.

A main character can have flaws, but it should actually have serious consequences for them. A good example in Fire Emblem of this would be Sigurd. Sigurd is loyal down to the bone, and his big sense of justice causes him to take fights and battles he can't win, and eventually he ends up betrayed and killed.

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1 hour ago, Glennstavos said:

If I were writing a Fire Emblem story, I would have my Lord look up to great leaders past who are only ever portrayed as faultless and perfect. As a leader, you need to project this aura of unwavernig competence, elsewise people won't follow you. But said story would not work in our modern Fire Emblem settings, because they are clearly post-Enlightenment where individual thought is valued above religious or patriotic devotions. Heck even the priests and clerics are inexplicably atheist. This could be its own thread, but let's focus on how this creates conflict with our perfect Lord. He wants to open up to people, but he can't. He can't seem weak. He'll open up once or twice to a sibling in a written letter, to his most trusted advisor, to that mysterious girl that keeps showing up in his chambers at night (this is still a Fire Emblem story). But support conversations between Lord and his soldiers? Would not be happening. Not until he realizes that a leader can earn his peoples' trust through avenues other than strength. Support Conversations open up after this revelation, and he slowly becomes a less depressed and more wise person.

That almost sounds like Roy. In the story he’s pretty bland. He never wavers and never has any doubts, but his supports show that it’s just a facade and he’s full of self doubt. A lot of his supports have him confiding in others and trying to improve himself in some ways in order to be a better leader. His support with Marcus has him acting like a spoiled little boy telling Marcus he can’t retire because he still needs him to teach him in the A support while in the C and B he is pretty calm and level headed in comparison to Marcus who isn’t satisfied with the young soldiers and constantly complains about them. Roy’s flaws should show have been displayed in some way through the main story but it’s pretty interesting to see some depth from him.

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My main problem with the flaws of characters like Celica is that they always make the princesses seem weak.  This is due to A) the flaws being overplayed to hell and back, B) them often being paired with male characters, and C) them never getting to learn from their mistakes (as it either is just glossed over or is at the end of the story, since it's meant only to make another character look better).

My issue with the Camuses of the series is that we just don't get to understand their mindset.  We're just supposed to accept that they're "honorable" for remaining loyal to a liege.  The problem is, we don't really get to know what makes their lieges/nations deserving of that loyalty, so there's no room to really empathize with their situations.  We just know Grust as a warrior nation with a sick, meager king at the time we fight Camus himself; and in Fates, there is no single redeeming quality to Garon that could make you understand why Xander must fight so hard for him.

2 hours ago, Icelerate said:

I think flawed male lords, which are uncommon, get less flack for their flaws than their female counterparts. 

I have a sneaking suspicion it's because they're simply better written.  Granted, the only person I heard talk about Leif was @Slumber, but he certainly didn't make Leif seem like anything bad like a naive princess.  The male lords aren't usually gonna have some "better half" come save them when they make mistakes; if they even do have "another half" (e.g. Chrom and Robin), they mutually benefit each other, and the lord is still made to seem perfectly capable.  Chrom never really "learns" to stop looking out for others, but it's also never really come up as a flaw and you actually see him act distrustful towards those that are obviously untrustworthy (Validar).  Compare that to Celica trusting Jedah, who even looks like he can't be trusted.

 

Making a character with flaws is a fine balance.  Of course you're never going to appease everyone, but you can make a flawed character without making them "flawed" in the writing sense.  Or at least, not so blatantly written in a flawed manner that more than a quarter of fans can see right through it.  And seemingly "perfect" characters can be written well too; you just need to understand what role might make those characters more compelling/benefit the story more.  Hint: actually perfect protagonists are never entertaining to follow, but "perfect" rivals can leave you guessing.

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I think the question that hasn't been asked is "how believable is this character?".  Someone who diverts their army to help an ally in need, shows mercy to their enemies, and wantonly destroys their best friend's property because they think it's funny (despite said friend saying otherwise) seems contrived.  Someone who is devout in their faith, to the point of not thinking critically about its flaws is much more believable.

Of the Renais twins, Eir is more believable because a naive girl is a lot more common than a guy who can pull a strategy out of his ass and win against overwhelming odds.  I dislike Lyon on Eir's route, because his actions as an enemy and his act towards Eir are so far apart that it's hard to take him seriously (Ephraim's version, meanwhile, is a consistent jerk).

Flaws need to make sense in context of the setting and the character's other traits.  They also need to be as much a part of the character as their strengths.  Some people want larger-than-life heroes, while others want to see how a person would handle the situation.  I don't really care which side it is, as long as the character makes sense.

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2 hours ago, Ertrick36 said:

My main problem with the flaws of characters like Celica is that they always make the princesses seem weak.  This is due to A) the flaws being overplayed to hell and back, B) them often being paired with male characters, and C) them never getting to learn from their mistakes (as it either is just glossed over or is at the end of the story, since it's meant only to make another character look better).

My issue with the Camuses of the series is that we just don't get to understand their mindset.  We're just supposed to accept that they're "honorable" for remaining loyal to a liege.  The problem is, we don't really get to know what makes their lieges/nations deserving of that loyalty, so there's no room to really empathize with their situations.  We just know Grust as a warrior nation with a sick, meager king at the time we fight Camus himself; and in Fates, there is no single redeeming quality to Garon that could make you understand why Xander must fight so hard for him.

I have a sneaking suspicion it's because they're simply better written.  Granted, the only person I heard talk about Leif was @Slumber, but he certainly didn't make Leif seem like anything bad like a naive princess.  The male lords aren't usually gonna have some "better half" come save them when they make mistakes; if they even do have "another half" (e.g. Chrom and Robin), they mutually benefit each other, and the lord is still made to seem perfectly capable.  Chrom never really "learns" to stop looking out for others, but it's also never really come up as a flaw and you actually see him act distrustful towards those that are obviously untrustworthy (Validar).  Compare that to Celica trusting Jedah, who even looks like he can't be trusted.

 

Making a character with flaws is a fine balance.  Of course you're never going to appease everyone, but you can make a flawed character without making them "flawed" in the writing sense.  Or at least, not so blatantly written in a flawed manner that more than a quarter of fans can see right through it.  And seemingly "perfect" characters can be written well too; you just need to understand what role might make those characters more compelling/benefit the story more.  Hint: actually perfect protagonists are never entertaining to follow, but "perfect" rivals can leave you guessing.

I can't really judge the writing behind Sigurd and Leif because I have not played the Jugdral games. I have watched an LP of SoV so I know Celica's character but probably not enough to analyse her. I think Ghast Station's video on her is good and shows that she's well-written for the most part. The only lords I can talk about with merit are the ones from FE6-FE10 since I've played all five of those games. 

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I think it largely depends on the the characters they interact with too.

The main problem with Celica is how she trusts Jedah, who, right in front of her, cackles about bringing in a world of chaos and such. The guy's manipulations aren't exactly subtle. So as a result, Celica looks like an idiot. Then there's that reunion scene where she flies off the handle, and how she's motivated to save Alm to the point that's seems to be the final factor in her decisions, which makes it seem like she cares more about him than doing her duty. So much for her being selfless. And all that stands out more compared to Alm's Gary Stuness.

With Eirika, her trusting the Demon King makes more sense as he's passing himself off as a Lyon who managed to briefly take control of his body. Here he's pretending to be a good friend of hers, begging her to help save himself from the DK's control. Because if she doesn't, Eirika may very well end up having to kill him to defeat the DK. It's one thing when a loved one might be killed by your enemies. It's another when you might end up being the one to kill them.

In short, the character's decisions have to work in context, not to mention having decent writing in the rest of the game as well. Let's admit, none us of liked how Celica ended-up a damsel in distress for Alm to save. What's the point of her being a main character if she just ends up like that?

Edited by RedRob

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6 hours ago, Interdimensional Observer said:

There is plenty of criticizing perfection in FE as of late. Alm, Corrin, Ike, Ephraim, Roy, Seliph, Marth- each and every one of these has been accused of perfectionism.

If anyone is accusing Ike of perfectionism, then they've clearly not played his games. In PoR at least, he's brash and acts before he thinks - clearly not someone whose character is "perfect" by any means. Sure it all works out at the end, but that's despite his brashness, not because of it.

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49 minutes ago, NinjaMonkey said:

If anyone is accusing Ike of perfectionism, then they've clearly not played his games. In PoR at least, he's brash and acts before he thinks - clearly not someone whose character is "perfect" by any means. Sure it all works out at the end, but that's despite his brashness, not because of it.

I'm not saying I agree with this—I quite disagree actually—but the argument is that Ike's flaws aren't really flaws because they don't ever cause him any trouble since he always gets bailed out. The two big examples that get used are meeting Kurthnaga and the incident with Sanaki.

Edited by bottlegnomes

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2 hours ago, bottlegnomes said:

@eclipse Wanton destruction of a friend's property?

Would you be happy if your otherwise altruistic friend trashed your room on a regular basis?

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29 minutes ago, eclipse said:

Would you be happy if your otherwise altruistic friend trashed your room on a regular basis?

Sorry, should've phrased that better. The latter example in that pair seemed like Celica, so I was wondering if you were talking about a specific example of such a thing from like Alm or someone.

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Just now, bottlegnomes said:

Sorry, should've phrased that better. The latter example in that pair seemed like Celica, so I was wondering if you were talking about a specific example of such a thing from like Alm or someone.

Nope.  It was just a hypothetical, to show that a character's flaw needs to make sense in terms of everything else.

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1 hour ago, bottlegnomes said:

I'm not saying I agree with this—I quite disagree actually—but the argument is that Ike's flaws aren't really flaws because they don't ever cause him any trouble since he always gets bailed out.

Being bailed out by someone else doesn't mean he is without flaws. In fact, if he was without flaws, then - logically speaking - he shouldn't need to be bailed out by anyone in the first place. The fact that he does need to be bailed out proves that he does indeed have flaws.

Edited by NinjaMonkey

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4 hours ago, eclipse said:

I think the question that hasn't been asked is "how believable is this character?".  Someone who diverts their army to help an ally in need, shows mercy to their enemies, and wantonly destroys their best friend's property because they think it's funny (despite said friend saying otherwise) seems contrived.  Someone who is devout in their faith, to the point of not thinking critically about its flaws is much more believable.

Of the Renais twins, Eir is more believable because a naive girl is a lot more common than a guy who can pull a strategy out of his ass and win against overwhelming odds.  I dislike Lyon on Eir's route, because his actions as an enemy and his act towards Eir are so far apart that it's hard to take him seriously (Ephraim's version, meanwhile, is a consistent jerk).

Flaws need to make sense in context of the setting and the character's other traits.  They also need to be as much a part of the character as their strengths.  Some people want larger-than-life heroes, while others want to see how a person would handle the situation.  I don't really care which side it is, as long as the character makes sense.

Pretty much this. I've said this before and I'm going to say it again. A good character to me is a character I can understand or relate to in some fashion. I do not necessarily need to agree with what they say or do I just have to understand the reasoning behind those words or actions. The reason I can't get behind Celica's decision to trust jedah and not tell her friends is because there is literally no reason to do either of those things. I mean at this point in the story she's learned to stop keeping secrets and to trust her allies. However the minute she gets to rigel all of that development is thrown completely out the window in favor of advancing the plot. ugh it just annoys me. 

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