Character Thesaurus Entry: Visionary

Definition: having unusual foresight and ingenuity

Characters from Literature and History: Dr. Frankenstein, Merlin, Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo da Vinci

Common Portrayals: scientists, inventors, magicians, geniuses, world leaders, artists

Clichés to Avoid: the egomaniacal crazy visionary bent on taking over the world; the eccentric but lovable magician or scientist; the passionate inventor who creates something that changes the world but sacrifices his family and values to do so

Twists on the Traditional Visionary: 

  • Visionaries usually envision something that is beneficial or helpful. But what if their goal is ambiguous–good for some, detrimental to others?
  • We like to remember the “good” visionaries, but many horrible ideas and events were also birthed by those with incredible foresight and boldness. Instead of the purely evil visionary who sees nothing wrong with his pursuit, conflict your villain. Show him struggling with right and wrong just like the good guys do.
  • Complicate things for your solitary visionary. Out of necessity, give him a partner.

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.

Love working online and having your favorite description resources in one place? We’ve got you covered. The entries from the Positive Trait Thesaurus book have been integrated into our online library at One Stop For Writers. Now you can search and cross-reference between all our thesaurus collections quickly and easily. Interested in viewing a free sample? Register at One Stop and see all that this intuitive library for writers has to offer.

Thesaurus Pair


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. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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16 Responses to Character Thesaurus Entry: Visionary

  1. oebele says:

    I have some more ideas for traits: sadistic, enlightened, abstractminded, hopeful, strategic, pioneering, reputation or image oriented, (day)dreamer, hard-working, control-freak, compulsive-liar, tempter, intuitive

    to name a few.
    Ofcourse there are many more, but these are just some i thought of

    keep up the good work

  2. Oebele says:

    I have both positive and negative trait books. But there is no such thing as a “visionairy” in it. Why?

  3. Wow, thanks Susan! This was a fun one to write. I’m always amazed at how many of these qualities can be both negative and positive.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Great insights. Dare I say … you’re a bit of a visionary yourself!

  6. This is a great series. I love it. You guys are always bringing us fresh new ideas.

  7. This is a great way to think of how to develop new characters both good and bad! Thanks so much. It makes me want a visionary character now.

  8. Jeanne says:

    I love your ‘twists’ on stereotypes. Thank you for challenging us all to think outside the standard.

  9. Leslie Rose says:

    I never would have listed visionary in a trait list. This is an eye opener. Teaching 5th grade allows me to spend a lot of time with ole Ben F. His vision re-amazes me year after year as I share it. Little Tommy Jefferson was no slouch in that area either.

  10. there’s an award for you at my blog.

  11. Gawd, you guys always hit me with at least one cliche I can spot in my own writing. Thank you! (I guess). Your tips for complicating character traits are just wonderful.

  12. Wow, my thoughts exactly, Angela (with your comment about Hitler, I’m sure he thought of himself this way). Great post, Becca!! It is a scary idea to explore, “someone who thinks they know best for us.”

  13. that’s the word. and Merlin, i am so into it 🙂

    nice sharing 🙂
    very well elaboration

  14. Wow…great job with this one, Becca! I see so many possibilities for this characteristic.

    I think it adds well to villains because of the ego component…many visionaries feel their vision is ‘best for all’ which often can lead to ‘taking control for the good of all’ out of a twisted sense of belief in what is needed. this can
    lead to some very dark places (Hitler for example).

  15. Rebecca Kiel says:

    Visionary. What a great characteristic.

  16. Great character trait. Ben Franklin is my all time favorite visionary.

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