Character Trait Entry: Honest

Definition: To be forthright, truthful, candid

Characters in Literature: Harriet in Harriet the Spy; Joachim Ziemssen in The Magic Mountain

Common Portrayals: A by-the-rules kid in the classroom; the co-worker who is always reporting going-ons to the boss out of a sense of duty; the brutally truthful wife who offers her honest opinion unsolicited to advise her husband and family friends; the sheltered teen who believes everything she’s told because of her own honest disposition.

Clichés to Avoid: Tattle-tail little brother or sisters as a plot device; the honest, trusting nature of a focal character softening the antagonist’s heart, the honest girl corrupted by a ‘bad boy’

Twists on the Traditional Honest Character: 

▪ Put a character who embraces honesty into a situation where she freely chooses dishonesty for the greater good

▪ Have a character feel the effects of brutal honesty so it leads to enlightenment and self growth

▪ Give your honest character a compulsion to flout authority or break the law

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.

Love working online and having your favorite description resources in one place? We’ve got you covered. The entries from the Positive Trait Thesaurus book have been integrated into our online library at One Stop For Writers. Now you can search and cross-reference between all our thesaurus collections quickly and easily. Interested in viewing a free sample? Register at One Stop and see all that this intuitive library for writers has to offer.

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Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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Angela Ackerman
9 years ago

Wow guys, thanks again for all the great comments!

Confession time: this entry really made me think as I wrote it…about myself, and how others perceive me. Honesty is one of my core traits.

Once I realized the negatives of this trait (some of which I definitely struggle with) that awareness led to personal growth. Now I think first before offering advice or opinions, asking myself if honesty is what is needed and wanted in the situation.

Anyway, just wanted to share that–hugs all ’round! 🙂


9 years ago

Very interesting. I have this character in a story named Reina Abaya who is honest to a fault This is a very helpful reference!

I was a lurker for a while back as I often foundthe Emotion Thesaurus to be invaluable. I come back after a long hiatus and see you’ve created new Thesauruses with great quality. Sorry for taking so long, but you can consider me an official follower now!

9 years ago

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The Pen and Ink Blog
9 years ago

Thank you. We are honest about most things…

Cynthia Chapman Willis

Wonderful overview of honesty and honest people. I know and adore a few REALLY honest people and it’s true, sometimes they can be a bit too honest when it isn’t necessarily called for. : )

9 years ago

I really like this. Honest. 🙂 Thank you for much.

LV Cabbie
9 years ago

Another great post

My files are growing by leaps and bounds!

9 years ago

I love the pointers you give about the qualities that can be combined with ‘honesty’ to create conflict and reader interest! Thank you.

9 years ago

Thanks for pointing out how to use a character’s honesty in our writing to add more conflicts and plot twists. You gave me lots of good ideas.

Carrie Butler
9 years ago

I always love the twists and conflicting characteristics at the end. You both have such wonderful insight into these things. 🙂

Becca Puglisi
9 years ago

Honesty’s a hard one because pretty much everyone values it, but it doesn’t make for a very exciting character. Great ideas on how to add drama with an honest character.

Jeff King
9 years ago

Nice… this one will help me a lot.

Medeia Sharif
9 years ago

I’ve created characters that were bluntly honest and hurt people’s feelings as a result, which added conflict to a story.

I agree about those cliches.

Have a great weekend.

Elana Johnson
9 years ago

Oooh, honesty. Such a tricky topic. I think our natural instinct is to lie to save ourselves, and to create a perfectly honest character would be hard…

Rachna Chhabria
9 years ago

In today’s world,honesty is hard to find. In a character:honesty could end up being a flaw rather than an asset. To be truthful, honest characters have a tendency to come across as boring.

9 years ago

Another great insight – thanks Angela!

Shauna (murgatr)

9 years ago

Sometimes honesty is not always the best policy, especially when you want to thicken the plot. One lie, especially by someone who is usually very honest, can set the stage for a whirlwind of events.

I love all of the ideas you ignite with these posts!

Susan Blakeney
9 years ago

Thanks for the insights. A character I’m contemplating needs a bit more conflict and this post and the follow-up comments have given me much food for thought–honest!

SP Sipal
9 years ago

Great insight. And I like what Traci said too. The main character I’m working with now has exactly this dilemma. For the sake of her family, she’s forced to lie, and it creates a lot of conflict within herself and with a new friend.

I love all the resources you provide here, Angela!

Angela Ackerman
9 years ago

Absolutely Traci. With Honesty, it’s all in how it’s used.

It can be an opportunity for self awareness and growth, because honesty CAN hurt, it can cause conflict…and these things go against the motivations of an honest character. So that moment of realizing that honesty has a dark side and that unintentionally the POV character has has caused pain or hurt…great internal conflict. 🙂

Have a great weekend, everyone!


9 years ago

Honesty is something to treasure in today’s world. In a fictional character though, it can be the death knell. If everything is told “up-front” there’d be no conflict. So, I think you have to give your honest characters something/some reason NOT to reveal the truth and in that way, you challenge what they stand for on so many levels.