Definition: lacking coherence or orderliness; a lack of systematic structure
Characters in Literature & Film: The 7 Dwarves (Snow White); Charlie (the Perks of Being a Wallflower); Clark Griswold (National Lampoon Vacation)
Common Portrayals: Writers, artists and other creative types; hoarders; the elderly; geniuses; the mentally ill; characters in slapstick comedy roles; red necks; messy teenagers
Clichés to Avoid: The ‘mad’ scientist; the eclectic wizard, the harried mother/aunt/grandmother/teacher with too many kids to keep track of; using a disorganized antagonist or gang of thugs as a plot device so the hero may easily defeat them
Twists on the Traditional Disorganized Character:
- Disorganized protagonists are never portrayed at their bleakest, or they have positive traits which negate their irresponsibility, leading to an ‘all is forgiven’ scenario. Challenge yourself to write a character who is extremely disorganized and excels at consistently disappointing others. How will you balance such a character to still make them likable to the reader?
- This character type is used to disappointing others and then shrugging it off as, ‘Sorry, but that’s how I am. Forgive me?’ What happens when someone they count on in turn lets them down in a huge way–an unforgivable way?
- Show us a character who views her own disorganization with contempt, and pair it with the drive to change. As initial failures mount, this will give the reader a view of ironic self-disappointment.
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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Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.