If you write fiction, it doesn’t take long to figure out that creating solid characters is tricky business. Most of us quickly realize that our protagonist needs negative traits, but we don’t always handle these traits with the finesse required to do a good job. Yes, your main character is going to have some negative traits. For example, maybe your character has low self-esteem.
So far, so good. It isn’t hard to imagine a child with low self-esteem and the problems that this might cause. Perhaps your young adult character doesn’t think she deserves to go to college. Or your picture book character may be afraid to approach someone new on the playground. Believable and the negative consequences are obvious. But what about the positives?
You heard me. The positives.
Your character isn’t going to stay with a behavior that doesn’t serve her in some way. By not applying for college, your young adult character may avoid the feeling that she is abandoning her mentally ill mother. Your picture book character doesn’t have any friends, but she doesn’t have to compromise either. If she wants to swing, she just waits in line, alone but with no argument, for the swing.
Negative traits have to have a positive aspect for your character, but positive traits carried to far can also bring negative repercussions.
There’s no doubt about it, we writers need all the help that we cab get when it comes to balancing the positive and negative traits of our characters. Fortunately, Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, authors of the Emotion Thesaurus, have created two new essential reference tools – The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait Thesaurus.
Read my review and take advantage of the opportunity to win a copy of one of these books tomorrow at the Muffin.
But these negative traits must serve him in some way.
Whether a character is your protagonist or your antagonist, you need to include both positive traits and negative traits and do it in a convincing way.