Definition: not requiring or relying on others
Characters in Literature: Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), Laura Ingalls Wilder, Han Solo
Common Portrayals: women suffragettes, Civil rights leaders, inventors, explorers, geniuses
Clichés to Avoid: the independent, strong-willed, kick-butt woman who doesn’t need a man in her life; the loner who claims to need no one, but by the end of the story realizes his need for intimacy with others
Twists on the Traditional Independent Character:
▪ Give your independent character the confidence to stand alone, but provide him with a core group of friends/allies whose support and feedback only strengthen him (think William Wallace).
▪ Rather than making a character independent by nature, what if independence is a trait he must choose in order to meet his goals?
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.
Kelly Polark says
Ahhh, I love Han Solo.
Great character trait to feature!
Carrie Butler says
Oo, I love the idea of independence being a trait the character must choose. Great job, Becca! 🙂
Shannon O'Donnell says
Great post, and Han Solo is perfect! Sometimes, I think it’s easy to forget about the negatives. I love that you included some–and they are spot on! 🙂
Oooh, I am LOVING this series. This is so resourceful. Thanks so much for providing these!
This post was right on cue for me today, since my story character is an independent kick ass female. I just don’t want her to come off as cliche, so I’m trying to think of good twists for her personality. Oh, and thanks for the Han Solo pic. Made my day!
Alex J. Cavanaugh says
You just described the main character of my two books to a T!
Becca Puglisi says
So happy you found us, Lisa! And Susan, you’re absolutely right. That’s another solid cause for a person’s independence.
Michael Offutt says
Oh Harrison was so handsome and young in that photo. Age takes us all down…Cowboys and Aliens…meh.
I love the breakdown here on independent characters. Great post.
Sharon K. Mayhew says
Fantastic description of an independent character/person. It really made me think.
Tara Tyler says
awesome complete definition & workup of this character trait! and han solo is the MAN!
Lisa Alber says
Becca, I just now discovered this site–love it! I still have “Bookstack” bookmarked on my blog, but I’ll bookmark this one, too–as soon as I can. Doing NaNo and it’s kicking my butt; hoping to get in a few blog posts this month, though, hopefully.
Actually, this post is apt. I’m wrestling with an independent type of guy for my NaNo WIP. It is hard to get away from the cliches, isn’t it? Though, I did have him befriend a quirky teenage girl early on…:-)
Happy Saturday, Lisa
Susan Flett Swiderski says
A person can also be independent as a means of self-protection. If he doesn’t count on anyone else’s support, he won’t be disappointed when it doesn’t come.
Traci Kenworth says
Oooh, love Han Solo. His character
was so complex, so different from
Luke(though my heart still belonged
to Luke), Han intrigued me. I think
it was all that sparring he did with
Princess Leia and everyone else. Lol.
But you knew, down deep, you could
count on him to back his friends. Laura Ingalls Wilder is another favorite. I learned to be strong and
independent from her and that I could face any storm. You’re right, it is best to put independents with a core group of characters, it brings out the heart in them.