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 Literature: Mr. 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.
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.