Definition: Responsive to stimuli; strongly susceptible to the attitudes and emotions of others
Characters in Literature: Luna Lovegood (Harry Potter); Jonas (The Giver); John Coffey (The Green Mile)
Common Portrayals: the geeky, quiet & socially inept male bullied by family members or peers; the sensitive girl with few or no friends; the character who prefers the company of animals/nature over people; the sensitive ‘best friend’ who pines over a love because they refused to act and declare their feelings
Clichés to Avoid: the ‘mama’s boy’ ridiculed by an overbearing ‘manly-man’ male role model (a father, a muscle-bound gym teacher, a hard-ass principal); a homosexual male portrayed as emotionally melodramatic to the point of ridiculousness; the Mean Girls circle who pretend to care for a plain-jane sensitive girl to provide them cruel entertainment
Twists on the Traditional Sensitive Character:
- In most fiction, the sensitive character wishes to be different–less sensitive and more able to fit in. Show us a sensitive character who is at peace with who they are.
- A common theme is characters who oppose a sensitive view this trait as a weakness. I challenge you to have your character do something so worthy that even the most critical antagonist changes his mind about the sensitive trait!
- Put your character in a role where this trait is not only a huge hindrance, it could negatively impact those he cares for. Let your sensitive character grow by mastering this trait to the point where he can achieve what he must, but still accept who he is.
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.