Character Trait Entry: Determined

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.

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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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, an online library packed with powerful tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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[…] Determined […]

Leslie S. Rose
8 years ago

I’m reading WHERE IT BEGAN by Ann Stampler right now and I love the way her MC Gabby is determined to recover her fragmented memory to explain her current predicament.

8 years ago

This article is really worth reading, it has too much details in it and yet it is so simple to understand, Thanks for sharing the picture it has great detail in it and i really appreciate your true artistic work!

High School Diploma

Dennis Murphy
8 years ago

Hi and Thank You. I purchased, read, and recommend your book Emotion Thesaurus. Been struggling for a while now to figure out exactly what it means to Show not Tell. Your article in the book is the best I’ve found. I am recommending your book in my blog at

DJ Murphy

Susanne Drazic
8 years ago

Great post, as always! I’m adding OKAY FOR NOW to my TBR book list.

Traci Kenworth
8 years ago

A trait that could cause problems if left alone. Being focused on one thing could lead to all sorts of trouble. Good one.

Angela Ackerman
8 years ago

Hi Shelly–great to see you here!

Susan, you are too kind–thank you! And yes, the response to the Emotion Thesaurus has been strong enough that Becca and I will be releasing more books! Thanks so much for your support!

Heather, I love it when I read something and BAM, an idea slaps me right upside the head! Woot! That’s awesome.

Becca you HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK. Yes, yes, yes. Doug is a character you won’t forget. 🙂

Jack Dowden
8 years ago

This is awesome. Thank you very much.

Becca Puglisi
8 years ago

Great job, Angela. Have to bump Okay For Now to the top of my TBR list. 🙂

8 years ago

Oooo, I like the idea of the dark side of determination being obsession. Just mentioning that sparked an idea…

Susan Flett Swiderski
8 years ago

Excellent post, as always. I was (ahem) determined to pop in to tell you guys how very much I love your book. It’s a great reference, and ya know what? You have more than enough material on this blog to fuel a few more books. (hint, hint) And I hope you do just that.

8 years ago

Excellent post. Thank you for sharing.

Heard about you guys via PK Hero’s blog.


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