Character Trait Entry: Mysterious

Definition: difficult to understand or figure out; secretive

Characters in Literature & Pop Culture: Rick Blaine (Casablanca), The Cullens (Twilight), Jason Bourne, Aragorn (drool)

Common Portrayals: The bad boy at school; magicians and wizards; spies; aliens and paranormals; foreigners

Clichés to Avoid: tall, dark, and mysterious; the stranger with the mysterious past; the mysterious person that people are inexplicably drawn to, against their common sense.

Twists on the Traditional Mysterious Character:  

▪ For some reason, most mysterious characters are men. Create a mysterious woman (with something other than sexual intrigue behind her mystery) and you’ll have something fresh and underrepresented in literature.

▪ Mysterious characters tend to appear out of seemingly nowhere with this huge question mark about their past. How about an Average Joe that comes back from a trip or school break with a new air of mystery about him?

▪ The typical mysterious character is gloomy, brooding, and dark. What about the secretive person who is an optimist, or terminally cheerful? 


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


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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10 Responses to Character Trait Entry: Mysterious

  1. oebele says:

    i have bought the books about the traits (negative and positive). Again it seems to me this trait “mysterious” was excluded from the books i bought.

    • Hi, Oebele. I’m glad you were able to pick up copies of our trait thesauruses. I know it can be hard when you’re looking for a certain trait and it hasn’t been included. As you can imagine, there are a lot of traits that we could include, and we simply can’t include them all; if we did, the books would be so large that we’d have to hike up the price to cover costs, and that wouldn’t benefit anyone. So we have to pick and choose the traits we include. In some cases, certain traits were just too similar to existing traits to warrant a second entry. Visionary, for instance, is listed as a similar attribute for Idealistic. So even though the two aren’t synonymous, they’re very similar, and you can view that entry to get some ideas that will also apply to a visionary character.

      We also find that people use different words for the same trait. You were looking for hardworking, and we do have an entry for that, but it’s called Industrious. The same is true for absent-minded; that entry is called Forgetful. Compulsive Liar is Dishonest, Hopeful is Optimistic, etc. We realize that it’s common for people to use different terms for various traits, so to make it easier for users to find the traits they’re looking for, we included an index at the back of each book that lists all the entries, as well as any similar terms, so people can find the trait that they’re looking for, even if it’s listed under a synonym.

      Hopefully that will help you find some of the traits you’re looking for. As for the ones we didn’t include, I’ll make note of them. It’s difficult to add extra content to our books, but we don’t have that problem at One Stop for Writers, where size is no limitation. So we do frequently add new content to the thesaurus collections there. So it’s possible some of your suggested traits will be added at some point.

      Thanks for reaching out with your comments. Best of luck with your writing.


  2. Sky says:

    In my story, I have a very cliche character. He is tall, dark, mysterious, and very Tom Riddle like. But he’s not evil, he is very friendly and owns a happy little bakery. This helped ALOT.

  3. I totally agree, Elise! A mysterious character is full of potential and can take the story in a multitude of directions. 🙂

  4. Elise Shedd says:

    Mysterious characters can add so much color and depth to the story especially in helping to develop the plot more effectively. A writer can do alot of things in creating a mysterious person that can provide so many twists, turns, and climaxes to the story making it come to life on its own.

  5. Great post, becca–I love characters who have a touch of mystery to them! 🙂


  6. Jemi Fraser says:

    Love mysterious characters – especially Aragorn… 🙂

  7. Heather says:

    A mysterious woman, hmmm, I’m inspired. Thank you, yet again! You ladies rock.

  8. Boglárka says:

    Great post, Becca! I always love the twists and conflicting characteristics you guys come up with. I have a mysterious character who is smiling all the time and seemingly his one goal is to irritate the hell out of the others. It’s so much fun to write him!

  9. My favorite kind of character. They’re always so magnetic. You can do loads with them. A female mystery character would be refreshing. Perhaps we’ll all have to concentrate on writing one…lol.

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