Character Trait Entry: Brave

Definition: fearlessness in the face of adversity or danger

Characters in Literature: Batman; Captain America; Lan Mandragoran & Galad Damordred  (The Wheel of Time); Nevile Longbottom (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows); Rambo

Common Portrayals: Soldiers, Policemen, Firemen, Superheroes, Warriors, Hunters

Cliches to Avoid:  the hero who is so brave he is blind to the corruption of the people he works for; the brave hero with a secret death wish; the superhero whose resulting fame causes egotism & the eventual ‘fall from grace/comeuppance’ as a result

Twists on the Traditional Brave:  

  • We see a lot of ‘brave’ but not ‘smart’ characters. Give us a character who is both!

  • Bravery is acting without fear, courage is acting despite fear. Think of the saying, ‘to fear is to live’.  A complex twist on a brave character would be to have them feel something is missing because they do not feel fear.

  • Bravery does not have to equate into a character who is big and strong or physically fit. Show us a character who is naturally brave, but his body is compromised, yet rather than have to ‘prove himself’, he naturally has respect of the people around him.

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.

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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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Janet B Taylor
8 years ago

Truer words were never spoken– Brave but Stupid doesn’t play-
It’s acting when you don’t want to–THAT’s a real hero. And Neville has ALWAYS been one of my VERY favorite characters of all time!

Biddy Fraser
8 years ago

A lot of food for thought here. And loved that picture of Gandalf! It is Gandalf?

Stina Lindenblatt
8 years ago

The character trait list is getting awesomely long. And by the time I’m ready to edit my first draft, you might have added some new ones that are better for some of my characters than what I originally came up with. 🙂

8 years ago

Love that you mention Lan and Galad. 🙂

Carolina Valdez Miller

Great breakdown, Angela! Especially love that last bit of advice showing ways to revamp the cliches.

Stella Telleria
8 years ago

Brave and smart, a deadly combo!

Becca Puglisi
8 years ago

I think Sylvester Stallone was brave for doing that last Rambo movie. And I think Angela was brave for using a Rambo 2008 stillshot pic of a super studly one from First Blood.


*shakes head at Angela*

Leslie Rose
8 years ago

Brave and smart! I’m going to have to nominate Dr. Who. No matter what dangers he faces in the universe, he is always brave and compassionate.

8 years ago

I love this, especially the part about how you said bravery doesn’t mean the character has to be big and strong. So true, look at Katniss after all.

Traci Kenworth
8 years ago

Love this type of character. I’ve tried to make my hero both brave and smart.

Susan Fields
8 years ago

“Bravery is acting without fear, courage is acting despite fear” – I never thought of that distinction before. Very interesting!

R. E. Hunter
8 years ago

You’re welcome, Angela. These things always jump out at me, I don’t look for them (I think it’s part of my Asperger’s). If you ever need proofreading, let me know. I don’t do it professionally (and my time is limited), but maybe I could trade it for some future help on my novel, if I ever get that far. 8^)

Angela Ackerman
8 years ago

Good catch, R.E! Thanks!

R. E. Hunter
8 years ago

Thanks, another great post.

Allow me one little nitpick: in the Causes paragraph, I believe you should have e.g. in brackets (meaning “for example”), not i.e. (meaning “in other words”), as you’re giving an example, not an alternate definition.

Natalie Aguirre
8 years ago

Great post. I love the twists–especially the brave person who isn’t so physically able to actualize the braveness.

Bish Denham
8 years ago

Bravery has a lot to do with doing even when you are afraid.

Michael Horvath
8 years ago

I like the definitions separating courage from bravery.

Jemi Fraser
8 years ago

Love that you included Neville – my favourite kind of brave! 🙂