Strengths and weaknesses, every character has to have them. When I first began writing, I told myself that no character would be flawless, and every character would have something redeemable about them.
Flaws in characters create realism, conflict, and encourage change and growth. A main character with inner turmoil to overcome is much more interesting than one who is practically perfect in every way. The last thing I wanted to end up with was an entourage of Mary Sues.
Characters need strengths too, including antagonists. It not only makes a villain type character more realistic, but also much more interesting. Sure, it’s easy to hate a guy who eats puppies for breakfast and wants to blow up the world because he’s EVIL, but he’s just a typical villain who will probably be forgotten shortly after the book is put down. A one dimensional villain is as bad as a one dimensional protagonist.
Whereas somebody who believes they are doing good but are inadvertently opposing the protagonist, is much more interesting. There’s more for the reader to question, and there’s a build up in tension as the reader does not know how the two will react when they come face to face.
I wanted to insure every one of my characters had an element of grey to them. With that mindset, I began planning. Turns out, writing flawed characters is easy for me. A bit too easy in fact. Because when I sat down and took a look at them all, I found out I had accidentally forgotten to give half of them any strengths. I had basically written a bunch of very unlikable people. Oops. A few good hours of planning later, and the problem has been solved, mostly. I still have one character who I’m unsure about, but he hasn’t appeared in my draft yet, so I’m hoping that his actions and interactions with others will develop him past what I have on paper. It worked with several others, so fingers crossed it works with him.