Character Trait Entry: Sensitive

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.

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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8 Responses to Character Trait Entry: Sensitive

  1. Any weakness can become a strength once we allow it not to rule us or we learn to control how it affects us. Sensitive protags make for a great character arc! 🙂

  2. Jemi Fraser says:

    Spooky timing on this! About an hour ago, I was talking with a friend about how to help her daughter who is a very sensitive child! Good descriptions as always 🙂

  3. Great post! The Green Mile is a good movie. The character definitely fits this character trait.

  4. Old Kitty says:

    Aww love the tormented sensitive souls in art!! Just want to give them a big hug and make things all better for them! Take care

  5. Awww I LOVE the GREEN MILE! What a PERFECT comparison for the word sensitive.

  6. Karen Lange says:

    Good stuff. Thank you so much. 🙂

    Happy weekend!

  7. great entry. i would have to say that another negative for sensitives is that we can become easily overwhelmed by too much stimuli and it’s easy for us to start to shut down. escaping the situation is sometimes the best way to take care of ourselves. also, seeing the pain around us can be overwhelming.

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