Character Trait Entry: Prejudiced

Definition: having a bias for or against

Characters in Literature: Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), The Malfoys, most of Maycomb County (To Kill a Mockingbird)

Common Portrayals: the old South, white supremacists, Nazi Germany, judges and juries, crooked cops. I tried to also list groups of people who are commonly prejudiced against, but the list went on and on and on. And for every group that is misjudged, there’s an opposing group doing the judging. So really, just about any people group can be the victim or purveyor of prejudice.

Clichés to Avoid: the backwoods hick, prejudice in the small town, prejudice described as ignorance or closed-mindedness (however true either may be)

Twists on the Traditional Prejudiced Character: 

▪ The prejudiced character who is well-learned and highly intelligent instead of ignorant

▪ Instead of applying prejudice against a race or nationality, have your character judge another based on a simple character trait (like Elizabeth Bennet in Pride or Prejudice). Your character might judge a shy person to be stuck-up, misjudge kindness for manipulation, or dismiss a popular person out of an assumption that they’re superficial.

▪ To my knowledge, the prejudiced person in literature is always portrayed as wrong. But what if the rest of society was wrong and the prejudiced person was 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. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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Cedric J. Sims
9 years ago

the main character in my book is always judging people by their look. this is a great reference once again

readable books
9 years ago

i also like this article. very good post.

Theresa Milstein
9 years ago

I like your examples that avoid stereotypes.

9 years ago

This will certainly help me with my WIP thankyou very much.

Ruth Cooke
9 years ago

Ooooh! Thanks for this, Angela. Reading this through just gave me about a half-dozen plot ideas. Great post!

Carol Riggs
9 years ago

Thought-provoking post. It’s often difficult to do this w/o losing your reader connection to your character, though! I’ve had to tone my MC down, some…. I like your idea about what if the character was right and the society wrong?!!

9 years ago

Love how you picked Elizabeth Bennett for the photo for this one! You avoided a cliche so nicely ;).

Traci Kenworth
9 years ago

I applaud you, a very difficult character trait to pull off, especially with sympathy. Your ideas to make it (instead of an entire race) a tic that someone doesn’t like about certain people is brilliant. This will certainly help me in my own work.

Leslie Rose
9 years ago

Loved your POV on breaking out of prejudice stereotypes. I thought THE HELP handled prejudice in a very intriguing way, adding the layers of the Jim Crow laws as a factor, and even showing prejudice within a race through Skeeter and her fiance’s conflicts.

Becca Puglisi
9 years ago

Welcome Lufftocraft and Jack! This was a weird one, I admit, because it’s so intensely negative. But I have a prejudiced character in my WIP, so I wanted to explore it.

9 years ago

Fabulous work, ladies! I have attempted to join from work, though the company’s computer has problems with the “followers” section sometimes, to the point that I can’t see the list. If it didn’t take, I’ll take care of it from home later on tonight. Pay me a visit if you have a spare moment at

Again, just super! Looking forward to spending many hours appreciating your hard work.

– Jack

9 years ago

Unfortunately, I live in the clique. :-/ Which is why I plan on moving soon! I’m immersed in this trait, it is all around me, suffocating at times, so when I say you nailed it, I truly mean it! Great entry! And um no, thankfully, I didn’t grow up here. I moved here for a job.

Bish Denham
9 years ago

Good one Becca. Lots of people thought I was stuck-up when I was really very shy and introverted, so I know about that kind of prejudice.

9 years ago

Just found you through AW. I love it! These Characteristic are fun it will take me months to read them all 🙂

Lisa Gail Green
9 years ago

There’s unmined gold in this one I think. So many potentially creative ways to make an important point. It’s unfortunately a subject that is in no danger of going away, it’s only the face that changes.

Katrina S. Forest
9 years ago

Really nice post! The only book I can think of in which the prejudiced people might’ve been “in the right” is Childhood’s End. And even that’s kind of up to interpretation.

Gail Shepherd
9 years ago

As usual, you are one step ahead of me, and how glad I am of that! My next novel deals with prejudice as a central theme, so I’m going to copy these notes verbatim into the cool little index cards on my new…ta dum…Scrivener program! I’ll also mention a terrific book you may not know but that deals with prejudice in 1960s Florida: *Down Sand Mountain*, by Steve Watkins. Thanks Becca.

Angela Ackerman
9 years ago

Great one Becca! 🙂

9 years ago

Nicely done, Becca. Another great addition 🙂