Definition: an inclination to anticipate the best possible outcome or see events in the most positive light
Characters in Literature: Pollyanna, Anne Shirley (of Green Gables), Cinderella
Common Portrayals: little old ladies, Southern belles, mothers, children, religious people
Clichés to Avoid: the wide-eyed child wholeheartedly believing in the impossible, only to see it miraculously happen the way she imagined; the optimist whose faith never wavers; the quiet, timid, but wise-beyond-her-years optimist
Twists on the Traditional Optimist:
▪ Optimists are almost always portrayed as girls. Please, for the love of all that’s chocolate, someone give us a strong, credible male optimist.
▪ Many optimists remain true to their beliefs no matter how bad the situation gets. I’d like to see a more realistic optimist whose resolve is tested and wavers in the light of horrible circumstances but returns when it really matters
▪ Instead of the typical naive optimist, how about a wise one? Or an intellectual one? A highly respected one?
This sample, along with the rest of the character trait entries, has been expanded and streamlined 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 character traits that can be referenced for your character creation efforts. 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. Print, digital, and PDF versions are available for purchase from a variety of distributors.
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.
My WIP includes two (maybe three) rowdy, slightly irresponsible, outgoing, reckless, hardworking optimists. How’s that for some differences! Oh, and one of them is a man.
Leslie Rose says
I just finished reading Anne of Green Gables for the first time, so I am abuzz in the optimism zone. Loved it and Anne Shirley’s outlook on life. I can’t believe it took me so long to read this wonderful book.
Traci Kenworth says
I’m writing a male optimist right now, of course, he’s also strong, courageous, loyal, and get’s the job done hero material. I’m an optimist myself, so I enjoy characters that are as well. Great post!!
Bonnee Crawford says
Najaf Mazari from The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-sharif would probably fit under this category, but as a male instead of a female, and one who’s optimism is tested and wavers. I like optimists, most of the time anyway…