Character Trait Entry: Stubborn

Definition: Unyielding; resolute

Characters in Literature:Nynaeve, (The Wheel of Time); Verruca Salt (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory); Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games) 

Common Portrayals: The resolute boss; a stubborn toddler; military leadership; lawyers

Clichés to Avoid: The military general hell-bent on winning no matter what the cost; spoiled brat kids; villains who are stubborn to a fault and as a result, it is their downfall (that’s the easy way out, IMO.)

Twists on the Traditional Stubborn Characters:  

  •  Stubbornness is almost always a positive for a protagonist, helping them to have the drive to succeed. Show us a situation where stubbornness due to a strong sense of right and wrong causes him or those around him great hardship.
  • Protags and Antags need to have a certain amount of stubbornness but the root of an antag’s stubborn trait is almost always pride. So….show us a villain who’s stubbornness comes from moral or noble roots instead!
  • Flip a cliché. Write a story where the stubborn ‘spoiled brat’ actually uses her stubbornness for good. Or the stubborn military leader who really does need to win, whatever the cost.


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.

Love working online and having your favorite description resources in one place? We’ve got you covered. The entries from the Negative 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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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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Angela Ackerman
9 years ago

My son is playing Dragon Age right now and loving it. I’ll probably play it too–thanks for the example!

9 years ago

Loghain from Dragon Age: Origins is certainly a stubborn character who believes that his actions are justified in order to keep his country free from foreign occupation.

He is wrong, but you got to admire him for trying to do what in his mind was right.

Sunny Smith
9 years ago

I always look forward to the “Twist on the Traditional” sections of these!:D Thanks so much!

Theresa Milstein
9 years ago

Katniss certainly was stubbon. I bet stubborn is a fun one to write.

Mirka Breen
9 years ago

You gals are doing a beautiful job with the character personality traits. Your stubbornness will pay off. {Sorry, just had to…}Stick to it and there’s a whole book there.

Carrie Butler
9 years ago

Oo, what a fun trait to play around with! 🙂 Great work, as always!

9 years ago

Very interesting. I like this post a lot… it reminds me of Diana Wynne Jones’s Tough Guide to Fantasyland. She point out cliches sort of the same way you just did. 🙂

Eve S Nicholson
9 years ago

I love the thought of writing a villain who’s stubbornness comes from a moral standpoint …hmmmmm…. that could be fun!

Angela Ackerman
9 years ago

ROTF, Becca. Yeah, I guess stubborn toddlers aren’t on your A list right now! Oh, those were the days…

Thanks everyone for the comments. I love this trait, because there are so many ways to use it, both negs and positives. Being stubborn can help or hurt you, and it’s a trait where the characters needs to master it, or it will master them. 🙂

Martha Ramirez
9 years ago

Ooh this one is a good one, Angela! Thank you.

Becca Puglisi
9 years ago

Ahhhh, the stubborn toddler. Yes, let’s not create any more of THOSE, please.

9 years ago

Hmm, this makes me think of the antagonist from Hellboy 2, prince Nuada, a stubborn character with a twist. 🙂 Also, I know I’m repeating what everyone else said above, but I can’t wait for that movie either!

Tricia J. O'Brien
9 years ago

Interesting, Angela. I always seem to put a negative spin on the word stubborn. I like how you’ve shown it’s flip side.
Oh, I hope the movie lives up to the book!

9 years ago

“All heroes have a stubborn streak” I never thought about it before but that’s so true! I’m jotting down notes from this one. And I SO can’t wait for the movie too!!!

Lisa Gail Green
9 years ago

This may be totally random also, but I can’t wait for that movie either!!!! Oh and great post! thought provoking suggestions on the anti-stereotype