Character Trait Entry: Persistent

Definition: stubbornly continuing on, despite opposition, difficulty, or danger 

Characters in Literature: Scarlett O’Hara, Gollum, Andy Dufresne (The Shawshank Redemption)

Common Portrayals: revolutionaries, millionnaires, CEOs, military and world leaders, valedictorians, love interests, visionaries

Clichés to Avoid: The thwarted, often-rejected love interest whose persistence pays off in winning over the hero/heroine; the rags to riches story; the student with many strikes against him whose single-minded focus on his education gets him his diploma or degree

Twists on the Traditional Persistent Character:  

▪ We often see the story told of the young man or woman with no advantages remaining persistent in the pursuit of their goal. But the well-to-do have their own set of hardships. What about an affluent or successful person having to overcome their own particular set of difficulties to achieve something hard to obtain?

▪ The goal is usually something high and lofty: success in education or business, getting the guy/girl, riches. But persistence can be exemplified in the pursuit of something smaller, too: buying one’s first house, accepting oneself, making the varsity team, overcoming addiction. If the goal is seemingly impossible for your character, it’s something worth striving for, no matter how insignificant others might consider it.

▪ Persistence isn’t always applied to the pursuit of admirable things. Remember that the villain and his persistence in his unsavory goals will also have a big impact on your story.

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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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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Avery Frost
8 years ago

Hey, I just wanted to pop in here and say that I love this site and what you guys are doing. I’m an aspiring writer, and this site has been such a help. Your posts are thorough, informative, and inspired. I would like to see some more settings in the future, but keep up the great work 🙂

Aimee Katherine
8 years ago

Brilliant post 😀

Leslie Rose
8 years ago

I’ll see your Gollum and raise you a Frodo. He was more understated, but persistent none the less. I’m also thinking Barney on “How I Met Your Mother.”

Traci Kenworth
8 years ago

The search for My Precious goes on. Lol. Great post.

Romance Book Haven
8 years ago

Great posts. But I’m a bit scared of persistent characters! No idea what they may do 🙂

Susanne Drazic
8 years ago

Great post!

Laura Howard
8 years ago

My villains are very persistent for their long term goals… It is a challenge for someone like me to write these characters, since I’m so easily distracted. 🙂

8 years ago

My wife always goes around saying, “my precious…my precious”. She actually freaks the dogs out when she does that voice…and me too a little bit. But she persists. Great Post!

Angela Brown
8 years ago

I can’t help thinking of Pinky and The Brain from the Animaniacs, I think it was the Animaniacs. Anywho, every day Pinky would ask Brain what they were going to do. Every. Day. And like the persistent thing Brain was, each day he’d answer with the same thing. That their little mousey selves were going to try and take over the world. Yeah, that’s some villainy persistence.

Donna K. Weaver
8 years ago

Who woulda thought Gollum would actually save the day with his sick and twisted persistence?

8 years ago

I love the idea of a twist on something the character wants, something less tangible than an object. Hmmm… you’ve inspired me.

Bish Denham
8 years ago

Yes, if nothing else, poor Gollum was persistent.