Definition: able to answer for one’s conduct and obligations; accountable
Characters in Literature: Rand al’Thor (The Wheel of Time); Tess Smith (I’m Not Her); Gandalf (Lord of The Rings)
Common Portrayals: Parents; government officials; the judicial system; teachers; bank employees; historians; business owners; clergy members; doctors, nurses and hospital staff; accountants; school principals & school counselors; psychiatrists
Clichés to Avoid: The moralizing & over protective older brother; the parent or grandparent who cites hard work and dedication builds character; the co-worker who always does more than is asked and shows everyone else up; the kid who kisses up to teachers to gain trust and responsibility only to lord it over his classmates; the stuffy, tweed-jacket wearing college professor; the stern, by-the-book police officer; having ‘the world is depending on you’ type responsibility thrust upon a character who feels unequipped to handle it
Twists on the Traditional Responsible Character:
- Responsibility and morality go hand in hand, but what happens when the responsible character is providing for loved ones through an immoral practice? Give us a responsible thief, or a responsible con artist, showing us the war between what is right and being a provider.
- The conflict of responsibility and feeling unable to cope with it is a popular way to get readers to sympathize with a hero. What happens when a hero freely embraces his responsibility but still fails, and growth comes from acknowledging that he is not the type of savior others need?
- Try the challenge of a hero who faces two types of responsibility that war with one another. What path does he take and why? What are the consequences? The closer and more moral the two types of responsibilities are, the more conflict it will create (ie: a father stopping a brutal mugging he witnesses on the way to a hospital or making it to his daughter’s bedside before she dies)
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.