Definition: watchful or careful; alert to risk
Characters in Literature: Elrond (Lord of the Rings); Hermione Granger (Harry Potter); Stanley Yelnats (Holes)
Common Portrayals: Parents, politicians worried about voters; health and critical care specialists (surgeons, doctors, nurses and hospital staff); the police, firemen and other first responders; military leaders; publicists; people keeping secrets
Cliches to Avoid: The sheltering parent who practically bubble-wraps their kid before letting them out the door; the teacher or committee that over plans, sucking all the fun out of an event; a cautious character used as a plot device, warning the main character that their reckless ways will land them in deep trouble…and then it does
Twists on the Traditional Cautious Character:
Anyone bearing responsibility for others is naturally cautious. However, few truly dangerous situations allow time to plan. Put a Cautious character responsible for more than himself in a situation with a high stakes and a ramped up ‘ticking clock’, forcing them to act.
Do caution and instinct go hand-in-hand, or do they lay at opposite ends of the spectrum? Explore this relationship with a cautious character–will their instinct lead to caution, or does caution actually hamper their instincts, forcing them to stop and think about the pros and cons rather than act in a way that feels natural?
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.