Definition: neither bold or self-assertive; a tendency toward diffidence
Characters in Literature: Aibileen (The Help); Nevile Longbottom (Harry Potter, especially the early books)
Common Portrayals: Staff at charitable organizations, loyal campaign supporters of high profile politicians, janitorial staff, caregivers, supportive grandparents doting on their grandchildren, many artists and creative types, women in societies where the male is held in higher regard, employees of a lower station whose livelihood depends on not drawing attention to themselves
Cliches to Avoid: The modest-and-chaste girl meets a bad boy and he ‘ruins’ her; false modesty as a device to generate more attention on self; girls dressing modestly to characterize them as ‘good’ girls
Twists on the Traditional Modest:
- Modest characters are often portrayed as having lower self-esteem. It is common as a plot device for another character to feel it is their duty to make them ‘see their own value’. Show us a hero or heroine who is very comfortable with who they are, yet is a born supporter of others.
- By nature, modesty is a often a background trait. Shove it to the front of the conflict line by thrusting a truly modest character into the limelight out of need. Do they take on this foreign leading role to serve the greater good, or crumble of stage fright?
- What happens when you pair modesty with extreme intelligence and drive? A masterful tactical character who runs the show from behind the curtain because he understands that so much more can be accomplished behind it than in front!
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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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.