Friday, May 18, 2012

Character Merits, Flaws, or Fears

By Jill Williamson

In case you haven't noticed... I like lists. But I promise these will be my last lists for a while. *grin*

As with my post on hobbies and skills, I also like to think about my characters' traits, both positive and negative. In fact, each item on my list of character traits could be thought of as a positive or negative attribute. Take "annoyed," for example. It sounds like a flaw, but maybe your character is annoyed with people who are unfair, which spurs him into action. Or a "loyal" person might be loyal to the wrong cause, so his good trait isn't so good after all.

The traits can also be used for good or evil. For example, I'm an observant and sneaky person. Always have been. And when I was a kid, I used to steal stuff. I almost never got caught, either. Along my life journey, however, I've learned things that removed the habit of stealing from my life. But I'm still observant and sneaky. And I use those traits in many positive ways.

It can also be interesting to think of what truly frightens your characters. Now, most of us might be afraid of spiders but not to the point of needing professional help. I'm not suggesting that you give any of your characters a real, debilitating phobia, though it might be fun to do every once in a while.

It's good for your character to grow through your story, for you to find something about them that is a flaw, fear, or unknown and teach them how to conquer that along their journey. But you don't want to completely remove all their character traits. Because those make them who they are.

Click here to read, download, and/or print the file: Character Traits Brainstorming List.

And click here to read, download, and/or print the file: Character Phobias Brainstorming List.

What merits, flaws, or fears are a part of your main character?

Also, I'm hosting a contest over on my blog. I'm giving away a Kindle and lots of books (including Replication, the entire Blood of Kings trilogy, and Stephanie's Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt trilogy)! So if you haven't entered yet, go and enter. It's free!

Click here to see the contest.


33 comments:

  1. Thank you for the post. I can see what you are saying about the flaws and fears. In some books they can play a huge role in the plotline.

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  2. Thank you for this post and the lists! <3 I love lists :D ... xD I gave one of my characters a fear of spoons ^_^ He has to eat cereal with two cups and ice cream with a fork. It's funny cuz he's the smart, and the mature one and then people have to watch him fumble around trying to eat liquidy foods ^_^

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    1. I. Love. That! LOL
      What a fun thing.
      Wonder why he is afraid of spoons... Do you have a reason why?

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    2. xD bad experience as a child. Like... he was eating peanut butter on a spoon and it made him throw up. So he just associates bad food with spoons :) It's not a crippling fear though so that's good xD Just a preference.

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    3. That works, Random. Nicely thought out.
      :-)

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    4. Lydia Grace HartMay 18, 2012 at 6:13 PM

      That's hilarious, RandomThinker1!!!!! My worship pastor asked the entire choir to write down what they thought Consecotaleophobia was the fear of. I love the fact that it is the fear of chopsticks.

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    5. *falls into laughter-induced coma*

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  3. Keep up the lists! I love 'em :D I put them into my 'character design' section of a three ring binder I use for writing. Super helpful!

    My MC's fear is failure at being the leader of his team in their competition. If he fails, the consequences will be devestating to him, so he is terrified of not being good enough. He also failed as a leader back when he was a little kid, and because of that two of his friends ended up in the ER (it was an accident) but he blames himself. Sometimes it is great to add an trauma to your character to 'prove' their fear.

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    1. True, Sarah. It's important to know where the fear comes from, and most the time it does come from a childhood trauma.

      Sounds like you know your character well. :-)

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    2. Thanks! I'm trying to dig deep to understand all my characters and their motives, who wants to do what and why. I want them to be memorable.

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  4. I gave my main character a stammer and a fear of speaking up. The reason is that there was a traumatic incident in his childhood surrounding his father's death. The book is from his POV so we get to hear his non-stuttering internal dialogue a lot. :)

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    1. That's cool, Lauren. And I really like the contrast of his non-stuttering narrative with his stuttering dialogue. Like the person he is inside is stronger, or something. It's an intriguing thing to think about.

      Thanks for sharing!
      :-)
      Jill

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  5. I love your lists, Jill! I'm a list person too, so they are really helpful to me. :D

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  6. One of my favorite MC's from a previous story is deathly afraid of water. Petrified.
    My current MC is terrified that someone will think he's afraid. Backwards I know, but that's how it is.

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    1. That's interesting, Maddie. He wants everyone to think he's brave. Cool.

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    2. Thanks Jill:) It's interesting to work with.

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  7. Oh, goodness, Jill. I had to hold my hand over the spider picture the entire time I was reading your wonderful post.

    I love your point about how traits can work for good or bad. That can create some really interesting conflicts for your character when they and the antagonist share a similar trait but use it differently.

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    1. I'm fine with looking at spiders... as long as they're not in my bedroom hanging over me while I'm sleeping. :) lol. i haaaattee spiders!

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  8. LOL
    It's a gross spider, huh? *shudders*
    Thanks, Stephanie.
    :-)

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  9. My character is very reliable and loyal, but when threatened, she disappears without telling anyone where she has gone. This scenario brings the character to a point where she must give into her good traits.

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    1. Interesting. Where does she disappear to?

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  10. Great post! I am also a list person :)

    My MC tends to doubt herself and worry about every decision she makes. This makes choices very difficult for her and will cause problems when she isn't able to think quickly.

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    1. Good, Jill! I can totally see how that could cause problems.

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  11. This was a really interesting post! I love lists too...so I'm going to go read yours and enter that ah-mazing sounding giveaway!Sierra
    Keep Growing Beautiful♥ (Because You Are!)
    Philippians 4:8

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  12. I love that about all traits being positive and negative. I'd never really thought about it that way before!

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  13. Thanks for the post! The links were super helpful too!

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  14. I really like your lists too, Jill,

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  15. You're all very welcome! I'm glad the post was helpful.

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  16. I entered your contest before finding out that you have to be 18 years or older. The only way I found that out was by clicking on the full list of prizes. I would have let my mom enter instead. *Facepalm* Never do anything without reading the terms and conditions!

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