Definition: marked by unaffected simplicity; lacking in worldly wisdom
Characters in Literature: King Arthur, Wilbur (Charlotte’s Web), Forrest Gump, Primrose Everdeen (The Hunger Games)
Common Portrayals: children, the mentally challenged, the elderly, recent graduates, the uneducated, Christians and other religious people
Clichés to Avoid: the naïve character who falls in with the wrong crowd and becomes jaded by the story’s end, the poor widow being financially ruined due to her naivety, the naive graduate who learns the ways of the world and ends up a savvy, ruthless businessman
Twists on the Traditional Naïve Character:
- In literature, naïve characters are always cured of of their naivety by the story’s end. What about a naïve character who is able to resolve her conflict while maintaining her innocence and purity?
- Naïve characters are often cast in the supporting role, with a main character who looks out for them. Instead, make the naïve character the one who must be responsible for someone else.
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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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.
Becca Puglisi says
According to my dictionary, both forms are acceptable. The ‘y’ one is chiefly British, which I guess is why I’m more familiar with the ‘e’ term :).
Okay, I can’t help it: this is a site for writers, I’m a writer: isn’t the word “naivete” rather than “naivety”?
I love this entry. I’ve got a naive guy as a protagonist and I’m always looking for ways to make that trait believable and non-cliche.
L.B. Gale says
Just found out about this site. What a great resource! Two of my favorite naive characters are from television. Kenneth the Page from 30 Rock and Butters from South Park. Usually we are asked to laugh at them and admire them for a kind of simplistic integrity.
Kelly Hashway says
“What about a naïve character who is able to resolve her conflict while maintaining her innocence and purity?” I absolutely love this!
Becca Puglisi says
I never thought of using the character traits to help with drama, but I can totally see how they could help.
I think we’re all naive in some ways. Sometimes, naivety is good, and other times, it can be a detriment. So many possibilities with this trait.
Lynda R Young says
I’m actually have a character in my current WIP who is both naive about some things and street smart in others.
Mirka Breen says
I don’t think I do the naive well. It is high art to pull it off- the writer and the reader in ‘the know’ while the character misses what’s right in front of them.
I really appreciate these posts you make, they open up a lot of options for characters and SHOW the world that it can be done. I like naive characters to an extent 🙂
Great post, really enjoyed reading through it. 🙂 I actually have a character in my WIP novel who’s rather naïve, but at the same time responsible for leading a rebel army. Pushing naïve and idealist characters into leading roles and forcing them to make difficult decisions is definitely a great way to give them complexity and conflict.
Leslie Rose says
Oh, I’m stealing Stina’s idea. My son is an actor as well. These character posts are a master class. My favorite naive character is Edward in Sense and Sensibility, although I do sort of want to slap some sense into him.
Stina Lindenblatt says
I love your character trait posts. I’ll have to show them to my son. He’s studying drama and this will help him understand the concept better. 🙂
The Golden Eagle says
Naive characters aren’t my personal favorite, but they can play significant roles in a story.
Linda Jackson says
“…make the naïve character the one who must be responsible for someone else.”
I just finished reading “The Patron Saint of Butterflies” by Cecilia Galante. And it is one of the best books I have ever read, in part, due to a naïve character named Winky. The author has done exactly what you stated in your post: made the naïve character responsible for someone else. She also basically had him save the day by the story’s end.
I had never given much thought to the flavor these characters add to a story, but you have done a good job summing it all up. I’ll definitely have to print off this post and add it to my tips folder.
Traci Kenworth says
I have a bit of naivity about myself as well and occasionally, it’s a recipe for success in the fictional world.