Character Trait Entry: Courageous

Definition:  mental or moral resilience to face opposition, danger or difficulties, despite one’s own fear

Characters in Literature: Harry Potter (Harry Potter); Hans Hubermann (The Book Thief); Frodo (Lord of the Rings); Willow (Willow)

Common Portrayals: Military soldiers, police, fire and rescue first responders, political activists; court case witnesses to crime

Clichés to Avoid: the hero who is the complete package–strength, courage, intelligent, good looks, popular, etc.; having a minor character be the courageous yet wasteful sacrifice as a plot device to show the strength of the villain

Twists on the Traditional Courageous Character:  

  • Characters with courage draw admiration, because somewhere deep inside, we want to believe we too would show the same courage and fortitude when faced with a similar choice or situation. Shake things up by giving your hero an unlikable flaw that lessens his appeal, making him more realistic.
  • Warrior and courage are not synonymous. Internal strength comes in all all shapes and sizes, so consider making your character someone who is not the best choice for what is ahead.
  • Courage is to act despite fear, but every character has a breaking point. What’s your character’s, and how can they move past it to succeed? 

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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Bonnee Crawford
8 years ago

Hooray for Frodo!!! 😀

Leslie Rose
8 years ago

Frodo and Sam are the poster boys for courage. I think of the Pevensie children in the Chronicles of Narnia as courageous souls as well.

Traci Kenworth
8 years ago

Great choice for a picture!!

Fiona Ingram
8 years ago

Great advice! Thanks for the tip. It’s good to make your hero ‘human’ to avoid readers becoming bored with Captain Awesome.

Jemi Fraser
8 years ago

Yay for Frodo & Harry! 🙂

Love the point about courageous folks not having everything going for them – that would be downright dull! 🙂

Carrie Butler
8 years ago

Thanks for the tips, ladies! My next book is about courage. 🙂

Natalie Aguirre
8 years ago

Great tips. Thanks for sharing them. I’m working on a courageous character but don’t want to make him too good.

8 years ago

The positives of courage are inspiring. Thank you for this post, for it has instilled a sense of courage in me.