Definition: acting on desires, whims or inclination without forethought
Characters in Literature: Romeo (Romeo & Juliet); Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gabels); Fred & George Weasley (Harry Potter)
Common Portrayals: Dare-devils & adrenaline junkies; people with ADD or ADHD; kids labeled with ‘behavior problems’; Artists, Actors & creative types; Hoarders; Shoplifters; Shop-a-holics; People prone to violence; Mobsters & criminals; Celebrities; Teenagers
Clichés to Avoid: The troublemaker student; impulsive sex leading to pregnancy; the ‘single impulsive choice resulting in terrible consequences‘ as a plot device (especially when impulsive behavior is not a character trait); pairing impulsiveness with stupidity; the ‘straight-laced girl who acts impulsive to fit in‘ plot device
Twists on the Traditional Impulsive:
- Impulsives whose actions end in a good result instead of a bad result, and this causes unforeseen conflict. Think about it–usually bad things have to happen to get our characters into trouble. Wouldn’t it be great to see the opposite? A challenge yes, but being able to offer something new to readers? Oh so worth it!
- Characters who are both impulsive and intelligent. Because Impulsiveness is often paired with doing something stupid, wouldn’t it be great to see a character’s inner conflict because of his or her’s opposing traits?
- An organized, thoughtful character who must embrace impulsiveness for the greater good. So, rather than a personal gain, the character’s impulsiveness is the key to something bigger. This would create a lot of inner turmoil, embracing a trait so unsuited to one’s personality.
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.