Character Trait Entry: Diplomatic

Definition: acting with fairness and equality; appearing to have unbiased judgment and neutrality in order to achieve an end.

Characters in Literature: Astrophil, Petra’s tin spider (Cabinet of Wonders); Alfred Pennyworth (Batman)

Common Portrayals: Government diplomats, parents, teachers and principals, professional advisers, counselors and psychiatrists; business consultants; a best friend; butlers, secretaries and loyal support staff

Clichés to Avoid:  The diplomat who is power hungry and completely undiplomatic; the ‘third wheel’ friend who becomes a trusted confidant to his or her bestie’s romantic partner, all the while harboring a secret crush for them

Twists on the Traditional Diplomatic Character:

▪ Diplomacy is easier if one does not have personal stakes in the possible outcome. Show us a character who is invested in what happens, and the moral tug-o-war that goes with attempting to not influence decisions based on one’s own emotions. 

▪ Diplomacy is often trying to satisfy all involved parties with a decision that provides a best case scenario outcome across the board. What happens when there is no best case…all options are equally painful or terrible to fathom?

▪ Put the fate of a diplomatic character in the hands of a rash, emotional opposite. How do they cope without that sense of fairness and careful consideration? How do they find a way to influence, reason with or work around this type of opposite?

Build a worthy protagonist with a mix of unique strengths that will help him overcome obstacles and achieve meaningful goals.

This sample, along with the rest of the character trait entries, has been expanded into book form. Together, the bestselling NEGATIVE TRAIT THESAURUS: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO CHARACTER FLAWS and POSITIVE TRAIT THESAURUS: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO CHARACTER ATTRIBUTES contain over 200 traits for you to choose from when creating memorable, compelling characters. Each entry contains possible causes for the trait, as well as positive and negative aspects, traits in supporting characters that may cause conflict, and associated behaviors, attitudes, thoughts, and emotions. For more information on this bestselling book and where it can be found, please visit our bookstore.

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About ANGELA ACKERMAN

Angela is an international speaker and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also enjoys dreaming up new tools and resources for One Stop For Writers, a library built to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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16 Responses to Character Trait Entry: Diplomatic

  1. Pingback: Character Traits Thesaurus Collection | Writers Helping Writers

  2. Rafael says:

    Interesting. I just finished a post on World Building talking about trade and traders and one of the critical skills for a trader, be in fantasy or science fiction is diplomacy. They have to navigate different culture, customs and societies to get the goods they want and the services they need.

  3. Sherry Isaac says:

    Judy Dench as Bond’s ‘M’ added a nice, non-cliche twist as well as modernizing Bond. A powerful woman.

  4. Leslie Rose says:

    My kids want to give a shout out to Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer their diplomatic character. Yes, we discuss your character posts as a family.

  5. So great to have you here, unikorna!

  6. A diplomatic character with other, darker traits would be fascinating to write.

    Great post!

  7. unikorna says:

    I had to stop and tell you how delightfully inspiring your blog is . I am a beginner blogger and I’ve been looking for some blogging tips. I’ve discovered there is a lot to learn here :). Kisses…

  8. A great character to have around!!

  9. Bonnee says:

    Another insightful update, thank you! 🙂

  10. Alfred! Oh, I love it. Great post, Angela! 😀

  11. Jemi Fraser says:

    Astrophil is a great choice – I really enjoyed that book! 🙂

  12. “Diplomatic suggests a smoothness and skill in handling others, usually in such a way as to attain one’s own ends and yet avoid any unpleasantness or opposition”

    This is one of the definitions I was working from. Sorry, when I say neutrality, I mean that one ‘acts’ neutral in their position (think like a mother with two squabbling children) in order to supply a solution that seems reasonable to those involved–finding middle ground, or a solution that is agreeable to both even though it may not be exactly what they wanted.

    Perhaps I did not quite convey this in my post. I’ll have a look and see if I can tweak this a bit to bring it out more.

  13. Ooooh. Nice clichè examples.

    This is an interesting trait because it epitomizes how we are so often defined by our actions. In our minds, we all have leanings one way or the other, but if we consistently act fair and unbiased, we’re categorized as diplomatic. Another example of how we’re defined by others’ perceptions of us, rather than who we truly are on the inside.

    Good choice, Ange.

  14. R. E. Hunter says:

    My reaction was the same as JeffO’s. In fact, I haven’t seen a definition of diplomacy that used the word “neutrality”. A diplomat is typically working for, and supposedly loyal to, one specific side. A good definition I saw was:
    of or relating to diplomacy or diplomats; skilled in negotiating, esp between states or people; tactful in dealing with people.

    It was once humorously defined to me as “being able to describe Hell in terms that make you look forward to arriving there.”

  15. Hi Jeff,

    This trait was funny in the sense that there were several definitions to choose from. I had to narrow the focus so I went with the ‘focus on unbiased/neutrality’ aspect of it. 🙂

  16. JeffO says:

    Funny, when I think of ‘diplomatic’ I also immediately think of people who do their best not to offend or hurt feelings, who, when asked for an honest opinion, find a way (if it’s negative) to couch it in positives so as not upset someone. I suppose that’s more ’empathetic’ than diplomatic, though, based on the definition you have here.

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