Definition: A person inclined to dominate, dictate, be pushy and overbearing
Characters in Literature: Hermione Granger (Harry Potter), Mr. Dussel (The Diary of Anne Frank)
Common Portrayals: An overseer who is always hovering and micro-managing, the student waving his hand in the air, speaking out of turn, interrupting, correcting misinformation, offering information that may or may not be relevant simply to show how much they know, sneering, sniffing in disdain, looking down their noses at people, offering advice when it isn’t wanted
Possible Cliches to Avoid: The overbearing schoolgirl or bossy little sister, the clearly incompetent but dictatorial manager, know-it-alls
Twists on the Traditional Bossy:
- Instead of having a Bossy character who’s bossy just for the sake of meanness, give him a reason to be that way. Show why he is the way he is.
- Create a Bossy who knows he’s incompetent and doesn’t hide it, but for whatever reason, still is compelled to push people around
- Bossies don’t have to be know-it-alls! A person might be bossy by constantly finding fault and criticizing others in an effort to change them. Another kind of Bossy could be the expert at “delegating” (ie, sitting back and giving orders while others do the work). Redefine Bossy to make it work in a new way.
- Traditionally, villains and mentors are bossy. Try a bossy hero or trickster instead.
Additional characteristics to make your Bossy unique or unusual: polite, nervous, shy, thoughtful, affectionate, charming, charismatic, non-confrontational
This sample, along with the rest of the character trait entries, has been expanded into book form! Together, THE NEGATIVE TRAIT THESAURUS: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO CHARACTER FLAWS and THE POSITIVE TRAIT THESAURUS: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO CHARACTER ATTRIBUTES contain over 200 traits for you to choose from when creating unique, memorable 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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Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.