Definition: a strong intellectual capacity marked by clever humor.
Characters in Literature: Professor McGonagall (Harry Potter); Dr. Watson & Sherlock Holmes (same); Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice)
Common Portrayals: Comedians, sitcom actors, talk show hosts, political satirists, college professors, Court Jesters
Clichés to Avoid: Overly intellectual wit that becomes a private joke because it requires doctorate level of understanding to ‘get it’
Twists on the Traditional Wit:
- I love a clever joke that I don’t see coming. This is often difficult to bring about in writing without the pace or the dialogue dragging. Try bringing a longer range ‘joke’ into the storyline so it comes about organically, centering on a witty character!
- Targeted irony is difficult to master without causing offense, because it often entails the person it’s directed toward to laugh at themselves because of a belief or action they don’t really give much thought to. Comedians pull this off all the time, but the audience is expecting to be targeted. Show the witty use of irony within a story, and have it work, but in a setting where those targeted don’t see it coming.
- Wittiness is something that most people enjoy and appreciate. Put your character in a situation where another character must be ‘won over’ to this type of humor.
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.
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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.