Character: K is for Kryptonite

atoz [2014] - BANNER - 910

Sorry yesterday was so busy.  The Ent funeral is over, the tree is gone, and all is well.

Tree pile









Photographs: Elizabeth West



K is for Kryptonite.

Thanks to friends Michael, Jeremy, Amber, and Jane.  I was going to save the topic for W (weakness), but this was a better title.

In the Superman comics, kryptonite is an element from Superman’s exploded home planet, Krypton.  Kryptonite is radioactive, and it’s the only thing that can affect Superman’s powers.  It makes him sick, weak, and defenseless.

Might want to get that checked out, Superdude. 

Might want to get that checked out, Superdude.


A well-rounded character HAS to have a weakness.  Everyone has them.  EVERYONE.  This isn’t a critical flaw, which the character might not even be aware of; it’s something that the character isn’t particularly strong in or has no defense against.

An astute person will seek out ways to turn a weakness into a strength, or he will acquire a helper who is strong in that area so they can complement each other.  These don’t have to be practical skills; they can also be personality traits. The weakness can make the character sympathetic or not.

Think about Christian in Cyrano de Bergerac enlisting Cyrano to help him woo Roxanne.  Of course, Christian doesn’t know that Cyrano loves Roxane (and Roxane thinks all this brilliance of wit and poetry is coming from the hot guy, not the guy with the funny nose).

My education has been abysmal (or I wasn’t paying attention—probably this).  Though I knew the events of the play were fictional, I did not know that Cyrano de Bergerac was a real person.

I apologize, sir, for thinking you were just a character Edmond Rostand made up.


We have sympathy for Cyrano because he’s doing all the work and not getting the love.  He’s weak in that he can’t profess his love when he should, and Christian can but doesn’t know how to do it effectively.  Christian turns his weakness into a strength and in the end tries to be honest, but it bites them both in the ass because neither ends up with Roxane.

You can make your character do this and have everything turn out fine, or you can engineer a tragic ending like this one.

Most people don’t like to make their kryptonite known.  They fear someone will take advantage of it, or the worst will happen.  If you want to mess with your protagonist, give the villain a way to use that weakness against him.

Pressure points, anyone?

Pressure points, anyone?


Your character will have to find a way to overcome his kryptonite in order to accomplish his goal (or stop the villain).  If he can’t do it directly, he’ll have to find a way around it.  Be careful you don’t make this process take too long, blind him to solutions he should see, or have him avoid them for really stupid reasons. You’ll frustrate your readers and lose them.

The journey of overcoming a weakness can be as interesting and engaging as the end result.  A good story has internal conflict within its characters as well as a Big Bad that they must conquer.


3 thoughts on “Character: K is for Kryptonite

    • Yes, if it’s too easy, then where’s the challenge? And if they miss something incredibly obvious that they should have seen, you end up with a *Three’s Company* episode.

      On Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 8:51 AM, Graphomaniac – Elizabeth West wrote:


  1. Pingback: Character: P is for Potency | Graphomaniac – Elizabeth West

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