Definition: inclined to criticize severely; to evaluate judiciously
Characters in Literature: Headmistress Trunchbull (Matilda); Professor Snape (Harry Potter); Norma Bates ‘Mother’ (Psycho)
Common Portrayals: Unyielding coaches, professors and teachers; nuns who run orphanages & schools; pressuring parents living their dreams through their children via sports/activities; Army boot camp trainers
Clichés to Avoid: The overbearing parent or grandparent; a sadistic principal or teacher who enjoys brow-beating students; the older sister who is over critical of her younger siblings; the boss for whom nothing is ever good enough
Twists on the Traditional Critic:
- Critics are often portrayed as negative within a storyline, or even as villains. Try creating a critical character as a positive force, rather than a ‘necessary evil’ device for another character to succeed (like your typical coach/star athlete duo).
- Most critics are seen as hardened individuals made that way by circumstances & the environment. Try to infuse soft-hardheartedness in your critic, or give us a critical character who is emotional &/ encouraging.
- The critical character’s biggest target is often themselves. They can drive themselves with high expectations and then hold others to the same standards. What happens when a critical, driven character is placed in a situation where the goal is to ensure a defeat of some kind, not success?
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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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.