Definition: a firm resolve; unwavering; focused
Characters in Literature: Doug (Okay For Now); Katniss (The Hunger Games); Perrin (The Wheel of Time)
Common Portrayals: Athletes, Competitors, Law Enforcers & Military, Leaders; Serial Killers; Stalkers; Paparazzi
Clichés to Avoid: The athlete or competitor who will win at all costs and leave behind a body count to do it; the ex cop with a vendetta; the military Rambo type who was wronged and is determined to bring his government down; the character who wants something outlandish and who is not suited for the task, yet manages to achieve it through an incredible amount of fortunate coincidences and luck.
Twists on the Traditional Determined Character:
- The darker cousin of determination is obsession. It’s easy to show obsession leading to a person’s undoing, so instead, show us a hero who buries himself in it, but then realizes what is happening and pulls himself out in time.
- With villains, determination is intrinsic and so readers take it as a matter of course. This means some authors skim on defining WHY the villain is determined, so if you write this trait, don’t skimp! The WHY is what creates empathy, so show us the cause, the need, that lies behind striving to obtain their goal.
- Determination can never be enough. Challenge your character morally, and add conflict that makes them question their choice and mindset. Self-doubt can be a powerful way to define determination.
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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Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.