Character Trait: Serious

Definition: having a thoughtful or subdued manner

Causes: being more inclined to internal thought than external expression; an underdeveloped sense of humor; a strong sense of duty to others; being forced to grow up too early and become responsible at an early age; the belief that any kind of fun is vanity; a compulsion to strictly adhere to the rules; the need to always be on one’s guard

Characters in LiteratureMr. Darcy, Peter Hatcher (Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing), Michael Corleone (The Godfather), Katniss Everdeen

Common Portrayals: cyborgs, robots, and other non-humans; CEOs; mathematicians and scientists; religious characters

Clichés to Avoid the teenager/young adult forced to care for younger siblings and put his own life on hold; the cruel, hyper-religious person who condemns others for their frivolous choices; the serious character who’s incapable of getting the simplest joke

Twists on the Traditional Serious Character:  

▪ Serious characters are so often BORING. Give them additional traits to make them interesting or empathetic (see below)

▪ The archetypal sidekick is almost always comedian to the main character’s straight man. Switch it up and create a serious sidekick and see what humor can come from that situation.

▪ Give your serious character a new reason for being that way. Maybe it’s her way of rebelling against society or expressing individuality. Whatever the reason, make sure it makes sense and you lay the foundation so it’s believable to the reader.


This sample, along with the rest of the character trait entries, has been expanded into book form! Together, THE NEGATIVE TRAIT THESAURUS: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO CHARACTER FLAWS and THE POSITIVE TRAIT THESAURUS: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO CHARACTER ATTRIBUTES contain over 200 traits for you to choose from when creating unique, memorable 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 Negative 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.

Thesaurus Pair


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.
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[…] Serious […]


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Jemi Fraser
8 years ago

There are some great combinations for treating a serious character here – awesome! 🙂

8 years ago

Again, you’re very welcome!
Happy to encourage a fellow writer.

Karen Lange
8 years ago

Wonderful, as always! Love your examples of characters. Happy weekend! 🙂

Becca Puglisi
8 years ago

Thanks Traci and Tracy! And Kathrese, I’m so glad you’re enjoying The Emotion Thesaurus. We’re always so excited to hear that the people who buy it are happy with it.

Kathrese McKee
8 years ago

The artwork of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet took me back to the first time I read Pride and Prejudice. Poor Darcy–so serious and misunderstood.

I love your book, BTW. I bought it for my Kindle a few weeks ago, and I often have The Emotion Thesaurus open on my desktop in the Amazon app as I write. Great resource.

8 years ago

I just love these posts.

Traci Kenworth
8 years ago

Good one!!