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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6 months ago

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.

2 years ago

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.

Angela Ackerman
8 years ago

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

Elise Shedd
8 years ago

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.

Angela Ackerman
8 years ago

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


Jemi Fraser
8 years ago

Love mysterious characters – especially Aragorn… 🙂

8 years ago

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

8 years ago

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!

Traci Kenworth
8 years ago

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.