Definition: untrustworthy; lacking honesty, untruthful
Characters in Literature: The Great Gatsby; Rita Skeeter (Harry Potter) Pinocchio, Pirate Characters (ie Jack Sparrow; Captain Hook)
Common Portrayals: Pirates, Gamblers, Swindlers, Politicians, ‘the bad kid’, the co-worker who lies and uses ill-gotten information on others to climb the corporate ladder, Bank Robbers, Pedophiles, Drug addicts, cheating spouses
Clichés to Avoid: con-artist twenty-somethings running a scam on elderly/grandparents for money; the cop on the take; ‘the sullen bad boy’ teen; dishonest big corporations; the rich cheating husband; a falling for a rogue and then being shocked at eventual dishonesty/betrayal, used car salesman
Twists on the Traditional Dishonest Character:
- Why do dishonest sorts always need to be rich jerks, seedy street folk or people who are bad to the bone? Try a dishonest nun! Let’s see a funeral director lie to a grieving family. Better yet, how about a doll-haired, cookie-baking granny who can lie through her teeth!
- I would love to see a genuine dishonest-to-honest transformation that came about because of an internal epiphany, not through the love/guidance of someone else. Show us people can change, but they don’t need other people to ‘show them how’.
- Create a scenario where dishonesty is the best course and will cause the least amount of hurt to others, and the stubborn, dishonest character chooses to be honest in order to go against ‘what other people deem as right’.
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.