Character Trait Entry: Thrifty

Definition: marked by economy and good management

Characters in Literature: Marilla Cuthbert (Anne of Green Gables), Dicey Tillerman (Homecoming), Mrs. Weasley

Common Portrayals: the elderly, accountants, bankers, single parents

Clichés to Avoid: the elderly woman with no bank account but thousands of dollars stuffed in mattresses and cookie jars around her house; the crotchety gajillionnaire who has scads of money but no joy and no one to share life with; the single mom that counts every penny and goes without so her children can have what they want (while this is a real and admirable character in the real world, it’s has been done a lot in fiction; utilize with care)

Twists on the Traditional Thrifty Character:

  • Thriftiness is a usually a characteristic that goes back to a person’s childhood or a specific event/time period. What about a wasteful person who must become thrifty in order to accomplish a certain goal?
  • Thrifty characters are so often portrayed as stingy. Twist the cliché by making your Thrifty generous and unselfish.
  • Make things difficult for your character by surrounding him with extravagant characters.
  • Make thriftiness a negative trait in society–something your character has to overcome, rather than something to strive for.

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, an online library packed with powerful tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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11 Responses to Character Trait Entry: Thrifty

  1. Rafael says:

    I think that Mrs. Weasley brings a crucial concept about thriftiness. She is thrifty by necessity, after all she has 6 (I think it’s 6) children and only one wage earner.

    Other people are thrifty, if not downright hoarders by compulsion whether they need it or not.

  2. My husband’s a Thrifty, so I have pretty good experience with this one. I, on the other hand, have to work really hard at being economical. The combination makes for an interesting marriage 😉

  3. Leslie Rose says:

    Love Mrs. W. and her knitted sweaters for Christmas gifts. I read a biography of Rose Kennedy once – she took thrifty to crazyland.

  4. thanks for the advice that was a the great post

  5. I absolutely love Dicey Tillerman. I can’t help but wonder if the author, herself, is thrifty, seeing that other characters in the Tillerman Series are also thrifty: Gram in Dicey’s Song and Professor Greene in A Solitary Blue. I know my characters tend to be thrifty…like me.

  6. Julie Musil says:

    I’m very thrifty, and I have to say, your causes are dead on. Nice job!

  7. Sherry Isaac says:

    I like that you include ideas on how to twist characteristics, something that is easy to forget. Yeah, yeah, nix the cliche lines, but the cliche characters are an easy trap to fall into.
    I was recently challenged by my writing group to do just that, to make sure moving forward a character does not act in the manner we’d expect him too.
    Great advice. Thanks!

  8. I could use a bit of thriftiness in my own life. Lol. Great post!!

  9. Great trait to cover, as JeffO mentioned, it’s interesting when you get thrifts that won’t thrown out anything.
    Wagging Tales

  10. JeffO says:

    Good one!

    I think a lot of times we think of thrifty as having to do with money only, but it can extend to almost any sort of consumable. It can also go along with hoarding type of behavior. My in-laws grew up in the depression and I don’t think they threw anything away. When we cleaned out their house after they both passed away, we found 30-year old canned goods.

    And, of course, there are also the people who are ‘penny wise, pound foolish’, and the people who buy things they don’t need just because it’s a good deal.

  11. I love Mrs Weasley!

    Thrifty as she may be, you gotta hand it to her in the last Harry Potter book:
    “Not my daughter you bitch!”

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