Character Trait Entry: Witty

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, an online library packed with powerful tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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23 Responses to Character Trait Entry: Witty

  1. Witty characters and people are such fun! But wit is sort of a gift isn’t it? Hard to force, either in fiction or in real life. Yet another great post.

  2. Southpaw says:

    I think witty in a book is hard to pull off because a lot of times it is subtle.

  3. Thanks everyone for the kind comments and shout outs! I’ve been out of town for the weekend and this was so great to come home too. I love witty characters, but find it hard to pull off without verging into overly sarcastic wit. Hope this helps!


  4. I love good wit, and this reminds me why a lot of agents and publishers say they look for humorous stories. Your post was a nice development of the pros and cons of being witty. Your blog is really a nice treasure chest of character traits to consider.

  5. Ciara says:

    I love witty characters! I just wish I could write them. LOL

  6. Awesome! I love witty characters!

  7. Witty would be harder to pull off than simply amusing or funny. I can’t even think of an example from a book. Great entry! Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

  8. Welcome, Arlee! And thanks so much, Miranda :).

  9. I absolutely love witty characters in any shape or form! Great post. Thanks!

  10. Aldrea Alien says:

    Hey, you just described my grandad!
    He was excellent at the witty remarks (on both sides of the coin).

    @Medeia Sharif: I agree on the picture. Yet to see that movie though.

  11. Arlee Bird says:

    Miranda Hardy recommended you so I am now following. A witty character provides much needed entertainment value to a story.

    Tossing It Out

  12. Great twists, Ange. It’s kind of hard to think of how to put a new spin on ‘witty’, but there’s always a way, if we think hard enough.

  13. Fantastic post, Angela! Have a great weekend! 🙂

  14. Great post. A dashing character
    to behold and interesting to add
    to the mix.

  15. Tony Storm says:

    this is the kind of character that amuses me the most, i dont really know why tho

  16. I love witty characters and I agree with your cliche.

    I love that pic. Two of my favorite Hollywood men.

    Have a great weekend.

  17. Oh no! I think you might have just called my DH cliche. He he he. I’m JUST KIDDING!!! 😀

  18. Carol Riggs says:

    Thanks for the witty run-down! And you definitely got my attention by posting that photo! CUTE, very cute…

  19. Kelly Polark says:

    I love witty characters (and people)!

  20. Stacy Green says:

    Great entry, Angela. This is one that’s tough for me, especially if I think about it too much. It’s so easy to come across as just obnoxious instead of witty.

  21. Eve.E says:

    Hi there,
    Thankyou so much for stopping by my blog. I have popped over from alex’s blogfest. Lovely to meet you and you have a new follower. xoxo
    Eve. 🙂

  22. Thanks for the tips. I am definitely not witty so would have a hard time portraying this in a character.

  23. Another awesom character trait. Thank you!

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