Today’s Craft post is continuing our serious on characters, there are at two other posts in the serious so far you can read them Characters to Remember and Characters: Detail File or Cliff Notes. This week’s I am going to build on last weeks are characters to remember. This week’s topic Character traits. Until my recent book, that I just finished the first draft of, I never thought about character traits. Sure I knew my lead character was stubborn or a loose cannon, but that was about it. To change it up, I went through and gave all my characters six characters traits and did my best to showcase them. Why only six? If I did more it would take a long time to complete my character profiles. Six seemed like a good place to start. I don’t need to show all six in the first book, giving my characters room to grow in the books that follow.

You can find several books online that talk about character attributes and negative traits. Two such books you may want to check out are The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes (Buy it here) and The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws (Buy it here). I have not read these two books, but I have others in the series and that are treasures. Good characters have unique traits and not all of them are good. My two leads in my book I just finished have a few. Kiana’s traits are Sarcastic wit and loud mouth. Her sister, Natalie’s traits are her perfectionist and her vengeful spirit. Don’t they seem that bad right? Common who doesn’t love a good sarcastic line or what’s wrong with wanting things to be done perfectly? Nothing, it is when you add other traits around them they can become dangerous. Kiana doesn’t know when to shut up, while Natalie doesn’t know how to not to lash out when someone wrongs her.

What traits do your characters have? Do you know? Do you only have one or two? This is something you should ask yourself. More traits and the more they differ and conflict the better. Your characters will have conflicted when two of their traits bash up against each other. For Kiana, this happens all the time. She hates people talking down to her or blaming her for stuff that is clearly not her fault. However, she is very loyal to her friends and when they do this her instinct to verbally insult them hits against her loyalty to her friends. Conflict! The key ingredient needed for a story.

Here’s some suggestions when picking character traits, if you have an idea of one character trait like stubbornness, try to find something that rubs up against it that is a positive trait. With those two conflicting traits find two more, that will conflict if the next two traits can also conflict with the first two awesome. Keep doing this until you feel like you have enough, four solid traits can do it, but the more you have the more fleshed out your characters will seem. Note, just having a lot of character traits doesn’t mean your characters are completely whole characters they are just a piece. Also, the more unique the traits the more the character will be remembered by the readers. Once you have one character done, try to pick traits for your others that will cause conflict with these traits. However, don’t just do it to do it, just keep it in the back of your mind, you don’t want your group of friends always arguing. Also, remember whatever character traits you give your characters you need to be able to back up in your novel. If you have a stubborn character but gives in too easy to doing something they don’t want to do, well then your character isn’t stubborn.

With that last note, what degree do these traits vary? Not all your traits are going to be super strong, some will be dominant while others are not. Is your characters loyalty to friends more important then their stubbornness or need to be right? Playing around with this will help maximize your internal conflict as well conflict between characters. This area is easier if you have already don’t your character’s personality, as you have a few ideas of key traits to start with if not then this will help you flesh out your characters personality. Speaking of personality, that will be the topic of next weeks post. Until then check back on Monday for a special Writing Wrap-up. I break down what I learned from writing my first draft and the stats.

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