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  • Aristotle wrote, 'A man doesn't become a hero until he can see

  • the root of his own downfall'.

  • The greatest protagonists aren't perfect people.

  • Like any human being they have their faults.

  • "- I'm not perfect."

  • - Sometimes, one of these shortcomings ultimately results in their undoing.

  • How does a writer create a great tragic flaw?

  • And what makes the storytelling trick so powerful?

  • This is Page to Picture.

  • How to Write a Tragic Flaw?

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  • Let's begin.

  • Tragic flaws in storytelling were first outlined by Aristotle in his "Poetics".

  • The philosopher referred to the character devices as Hamartia,

  • which is defined as a fault in a character that results in their ruination.

  • Ancient Greeks believed that Hamartia was a work of fate.

  • That a character's imperfections would karmically lead them to tragedy.

  • "- You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain."

  • - Hamartia can be seen in countless characters throughout

  • the history of storytelling.

  • "- Say my name."

  • - From Oedipus belief he can cheat the gods,

  • to Frankenstein's blind confidence in scientific progress.

  • "- Now I know what it feels like to be God!"

  • - As such, Hamartia can also take numerous forms.

  • "- What's my flaw? - Your temper."

  • - A character's fatal flaw may be arrogance, naivete,

  • jealousy, dishonesty, or countless other faults.

  • "- And I'm Ron Burgundy.

  • Go f*ck yourself San Diego.

  • For the last time, anything you put on that prompter Burgandy will read."

  • - In addition to a character's downfall humartia typically involves irony and moral.

  • For example, Daniel Plainview Hamartia is greed.

  • "- I drink your milkshake!

  • I drink it up!"

  • - The irony is that although he ends up with enormous wealth, he has

  • none of what actually matters.

  • The moral then is that a ruthless pursuit of money results in selling your soul.

  • "- I'm going to Mexico with my wife.

  • I'm going away from you.

  • - This makes you my competitor.

  • - No. No, it's not like that. - It is like that."

  • - There are a few techniques which writers often employ to make the

  • downfall, irony, and moral land.

  • First and foremost, it is crucial to show the consequences of the flaw.

  • When writing with Humartia, it's important to establish how

  • it affects both the character.

  • "- We spare no expense.

  • Spare no expense. Spare no expense.

  • We spared no expense.

  • No expense."

  • - And the people around them.

  • "- Look out! - Get down!"

  • - William Shakespeare's Hamlet has one of the most famous uses of Hamartia.

  • And this is partially because Shakespeare is sure to emphasize the

  • consequences of Hamlet's tragic flaw.

  • The play follows a young prince as he embarks on avenging his father's death.

  • But Hamlet is plagued with a tragic flaw.

  • Indecision.

  • As his famous speech outlines.

  • "- To be or not to be.

  • That is the question."

  • - Throughout the story, the prince wavers back and forth, unsure whether to

  • kill his uncle, the perpetrator of his father's murder, and he's constantly

  • finding reasons to delay his attack.

  • In Act 3, Scene 3, he decides not to kill Claudius because he's prey.

  • "- It is heavy with him. And am I then revenged to take him

  • in the purging of his soul?

  • When he is fit and seasoned for his passage.

  • No.

  • Up sword, and know thou are more horrid hent."

  • - We see the effect of hamartia in "Hamlet" almost immediately.

  • It plunges him into despair.

  • "- Oh, that this too, too solid flesh would melt thaw, and resolve itself into a dew."

  • - The indecision also affects the people around Hamlet.

  • It results in the prince killing the wrong man in the play's third of five acts.

  • And by having this critical mistake occur so early, Shakespeare can showcase

  • the domino effect of Hamlet's flaw.

  • "- Is it the king?

  • - Oh, what a rash. A bloody deed is this.

  • - A bloody deed almost as bad, good mother, as kill a king and marry with his brother.

  • - As kill a king?

  • Ay, lady, it was my word."

  • - The man Hamlet accidentally killed was his lover, Ophelia's father

  • and his death drives Ophelia mad with grief, resulting in her own demise.

  • This makes her brother Laertes hell-bent on killing Hamlet

  • setting up the final showdown.

  • In the final battle, Laertes fights with a poison blade

  • that will result in the ultimate death of both Hamlet and himself.

  • And Hamlet's uncle accidentally poisons Hamlet's mother.

  • This means that when Hamlet finally kills his uncle, Shakespeare

  • has already set up the irony.

  • Hamlet has avenged his father, but only after everyone else he loves has died.

  • Literary critic Paul Cantor prescribes the irony to Hamlet's tragic flaw.

  • - He does try to be everything and in a way that attempted

  • comprehensiveness cancels out.'

  • - In the end, the moral is abundantly clear, indecisiveness can be deadly.

  • Another key element to a powerful tragic flaw is making it central to the story.

  • Some of the best uses of Hamartia drive the narrative forward.

  • "- Listen, I had a heart attack.

  • And I just thought I needed to tell you."

  • - In other words, the character's flaw plays a primary role in each decision

  • they make throughout the story.

  • "- Your heart. - My heart? My heart's still taking.

  • - Yeah, but the doctor said. - I know what I'm doing.

  • You know, the only place I get hurt is out there."

  • - Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan" uses Hamartia to propel its spiraling plight.

  • "- It's my turn."

  • - Nina's tragic flaw is her insatiable drive for perfection.

  • Aronofsky and screenwriters Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, and John

  • McLaughlin established this trait within the first minutes of the film.

  • Nina dreams of getting the lead role in Swan Lake.

  • And all of her actions are in pursuit of this goal.

  • The screenplay emphasizes Nina's drive for perfection in its lines on page two.

  • She moves in precise motions and is obsessed with doing everything correctly.

  • By highlighting Nina's Hamartia so early and so clearly, Aronofsky and the writers

  • establish that this drive for perfection is going to be the center of the film.

  • Nina's tragic flaw is accentuated by the world in which "Black Swan" takes place.

  • Ballet is a notoriously cutthroat and perfectionist field, especially

  • in its upper echelons, like the New York City Ballet Company.

  • "- Attack it!"

  • - As such, everyone around Nina only accentuates her hamartia.

  • "- Vanilla with strawberry filling. - Oh, Mom, not too big.

  • My stomach's still in knots."

  • The director, Thomas, is manipulative and rarely satisfied with Nina's performance.

  • "- Maybe you need a little break. Like a day or two.

  • - Thomas. - Or maybe a month.

  • - What do you think? - She shouldn't have said anything.

  • - No, you shouldn't be whining in the first place.

  • - I didn't.

  • - You could be brilliant.

  • But you're a coward.

  • Sorry.

  • - Now stop saying that!

  • That's exactly what I'm talking about!

  • Stop being so f*cking weak!

  • Again!"

  • - Lily, meanwhile, acts as a threat to Nina's ascension to the lead role.

  • "- What's she doing here?

  • He made me your alternate."

  • - This sequence illustrates how Lily's presence exacerbates Nina's tragic flaw.

  • In the action, the writers highlight that Nina is fueled by the competition and

  • that she is pushing herself to her limits.

  • Nina's Hamartia acts as the root of her inner turmoil.

  • Her drive for perfection results in paranoia, and even hallucinations.

  • By the film's final act, Nina's downfall is all but inevitable.

  • Her final lines highlight the dark irony of the situation.

  • "- I'm perfect. - What?

  • - I'm perfect."

  • - She has achieved perfection.

  • But it cost her her sanity, and perhaps her life.

  • "- It was perfect."

  • - By centering the film around Nina's Hamartia, Aronofsky and the screenwriters

  • create a gripping character study with a powerful moral, that ruthless pursuit

  • of perfection can result in pain.

  • Darren Aronofsky notes that by focusing on Nina's Hamartia,

  • a film about a very specific world can become universal.

  • - I think it's about performance and performers, and I think anyone that

  • makes sacrifices for their art, or for their work, or for anything, you

  • know, that they can relate to it.

  • - To further heighten the tragedy of Hamartia,

  • it is crucial for a writer to give their character a chance to change.

  • "- You underestimate my power!

  • - Don't try it!"

  • - By definition, a protagonist doesn't overcome their tragic flaw.

  • That's why it's tragic.

  • "- I'm finished."

  • - But writers would typically keep their audiences engaged by giving

  • the flawed character multiple chances to better themselves.

  • "- Give me your hand. Give me your other hand!"