Amorphous: indefinite, shapeless
Cascade: steep waterfall
Cashmere: fine, delicate wool
Chrysalis: protective covering
Cinnamon: an aromatic spice; its soft brown color
Coalesce: unite, or fuse
Crepuscular: dim, or twilit
Crystalline: clear, or sparkling
Desultory: half-hearted, meandering
Epitome: embodiment of the ideal
Ethereal: celestial, unworldly, immaterial
Etiquette: proper conduct
Exuberant: abundant, unrestrained, outsize
Felicity: happiness, pleasantness
Filament: thread, strand
Idyllic: contentedly pleasing
Incorporeal: without form
Incandescent: glowing, radiant, brilliant, zealous
Ineffable: indescribable, unspeakable
Languid: slow, listless
Lilt: cheerful or buoyant song or movement
Lithe: flexible, graceful
Lullaby: soothing song
Luminescence: dim chemical or organic light
Mellifluous: smooth, sweet
Mist: cloudy moisture, or similar literal or virtual obstacle
Murmur: soothing sound
Myriad: great number
Penumbra: shade, shroud, fringe
Quintessential: most purely representative or typical
Redolent: aromatic, evocative
Resonant: echoing, evocative
Rhapsodic: intensely emotional
Sapphire: rich, deep bluish purple
Somnolent: drowsy, sleep inducing
Sonorous: loud, impressive, imposing
Spherical: ball-like, globular
Sublime: exalted, transcendent
Succulent: juicy, tasty, rich
Suffuse: flushed, full
Symphony: harmonious assemblage
Talisman: charm, magical device
Tessellated: checkered in pattern
Zenith: highest point
Cacophony: confused noise
Cataclysm: flood, catastrophe, upheaval
Chafe: irritate, abrade
Coarse: common, crude, rough, harsh
Cynical: distrustful, self-interested
Decrepit: worn-out, run-down
Disgust: aversion, distaste
Grimace: expression of disgust or pain
Grotesque: distorted, bizarre
Hoarse: harsh, grating
Mediocre: ordinary, of low quality
Obstreperous: noisy, unruly
Rancid: offensive, smelly
Shriek: sharp, screeching sound
Shrill: high-pitched sound
Shun: avoid, ostracize
Slaughter: butcher, carnage
Unctuous: smug, ingratiating
Visceral: crude, anatomically graphic
A character’s neighborhood provides the opportunity to tell us about him/her without narrative. People live where they’re comfortable, so how you describe the protagonist or antagonist’s home town will reflect his values, beliefs, passions.
When your character is out and about, take the opportunity to describe his neighbors, what he notices around him, the traffic–vehicles and foot, the flora and fauna, the rhythm of his world. Does he live amidst spreading estates or in a cluttered old apartment complex? Are homes stately and old or nouveau riche?
The descriptions I’ve included below are from novels I’ve read. I hope you like them:
- Buildings were tan stucco and wood slat, built around grassy knolls
- It thrived as people went about their daily business, some walking or packing loads, others pounding corn in hollow mortars. The sound of shrieking children mingled with flute music. The slanted morning light gave everything a hazy…
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The old expression that actions speak louder than words is very true when it comes to character traits. You learn about who people are and what their character traits are by watching how they interact with the world and paying attention to how they treat you and interact with you.
There are literally countless character traits that you can identify in others, and that you can identify in yourself.
Some character traits have to do with your underlying values or beliefs. Some examples of these types of character traits include:
Some character traits can be bad, and you may not want these traits associated with you. Some examples of these types of character traits include:
A leader or person who likes to be in charge may have the following character traits:
Some character traits can be consciously developed, learned or acquired. For example, character traits that you may consciously choose to learn or adopt include:
Some character traits for children include:
Character Traits in Literature and Movies
In storybooks and novels and movies, there are often archetypes of characters. For instance, there might be a romantic hero, or a leader or a heroine who needs to be rescued. Often, these characters in books or movies have certain classic traits that help you to identify what role they play in the story.
For example, some character traits that can be used for a main character that is a hero include:
If a hero or story character is a romantic interest, he may have the following character traits:
As you can see, there are literally hundreds of character traits that will add depth and dimension to any characters. You simply need to observe people in different settings to get a general idea how certain people behave. This can help you to recognize positive character traits that you want to look for in people.
Bring Your Characters to Life
By learning more about character traits through observation, you can also develop richer characters in your writing that are more true-to-life. Having well-developed characters in your writing will help the reader identify and/or sympathize with the character. Well-defined character traits will bring your characters to life.
•Naturalist Intelligence (Nature Smart)
Designates the human ability to discriminate among living things (plants, animals) as well as sensitivity to other features of the natural world (clouds, rock configurations). This ability was clearly of value in our evolutionary past as hunters, gatherers, and farmers; it continues to be central in such roles as botanist or chef. It is also speculated that much of our consumer society exploits the naturalist intelligence, which can be mobilized in the discrimination among cars, sneakers, kinds of makeup, and the like.
•Musical Intelligence (Musical Smart)
Musical intelligence is the capacity to discern pitch, rhythm, timbre, and tone. This intelligence enables us to recognize, create, reproduce, and reflect on music, as demonstrated by composers, conductors, musicians, vocalist, and sensitive listeners. Interestingly, there is often an affective connection between music and the emotions; and mathematical and musical intelligences may share common thinking processes. Young adults with this kind of intelligence are usually singing or drumming to themselves. They are usually quite aware of sounds others may miss.
•Logical-Mathematical Intelligence (Number/Reasoning Smart)
Logical-mathematical intelligence is the ability to calculate, quantify, consider propositions and hypotheses, and carry out complete mathematical operations. It enables us to perceive relationships and connections and to use abstract, symbolic thought; sequential reasoning skills; and inductive and deductive thinking patterns. Logical intelligence is usually well developed in mathematicians, scientists, and detectives. Young adults with lots of logical intelligence are interested in patterns, categories, and relationships. They are drawn to arithmetic problems, strategy games and experiments.
Sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence, such as the meaning of life, why do we die, and how did we get here.
•Interpersonal Intelligence (People Smart)
Interpersonal intelligence is the ability to understand and interact effectively with others. It involves effective verbal and nonverbal communication, the ability to note distinctions among others, sensitivity to the moods and temperaments of others, and the ability to entertain multiple perspectives. Teachers, social workers, actors, and politicians all exhibit interpersonal intelligence. Young adults with this kind of intelligence are leaders among their peers, are good at communicating, and seem to understand others’ feelings and motives.
•Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence (Body Smart)
Bodily kinesthetic intelligence is the capacity to manipulate objects and use a variety of physical skills. This intelligence also involves a sense of timing and the perfection of skills through mind–body union. Athletes, dancers, surgeons, and craftspeople exhibit well-developed bodily kinesthetic intelligence.
•Linguistic Intelligence (Word Smart)
Linguistic intelligence is the ability to think in words and to use language to express and appreciate complex meanings. Linguistic intelligence allows us to understand the order and meaning of words and to apply meta-linguistic skills to reflect on our use of language. Linguistic intelligence is the most widely shared human competence and is evident in poets, novelists, journalists, and effective public speakers. Young adults with this kind of intelligence enjoy writing, reading, telling stories or doing crossword puzzles.
•Intra-personal Intelligence (Self Smart)
Intra-personal intelligence is the capacity to understand oneself and one’s thoughts and feelings, and to use such knowledge in planning and directioning one’s life. Intra-personal intelligence involves not only an appreciation of the self, but also of the human condition. It is evident in psychologist, spiritual leaders, and philosophers. These young adults may be shy. They are very aware of their own feelings and are self-motivated.
•Spatial Intelligence (Picture Smart)
Spatial intelligence is the ability to think in three dimensions. Core capacities include mental imagery, spatial reasoning, image manipulation, graphic and artistic skills, and an active imagination. Sailors, pilots, sculptors, painters, and architects all exhibit spatial intelligence. Young adults with this kind of intelligence may be fascinated with mazes or jigsaw puzzles, or spend free time drawing or daydreaming.
When we think of heroes these days, we generally think of those who qualify for heroic bravery.
What is it? This is the kind of bravery that makes a character do crazy dangerous stuff, either to protect others or to advance a cause in which he passionately believes. He’s not a fool. He knows what he’s risking, but he believes the danger is worth it.
Steadfast bravery isn’t as flashy as heroic bravery (although it exhibits bursts of heroism), but its patient doggedness challenges fate every single day.
What is it? This is the kind of bravery we see from someone who is enduring a bad or dangerous situation day in and day out. A POW, a soldier in the trenches, or an informant in enemy territory will probably exhibit steadfast bravery.
This one is perhaps the least flashy of any type of bravery. It can even occasionally be confused with cowardice.
What is it? Quiet bravery gives a character the courage needed to endure bad situations with grace and patience. It’s basically an offshoot of steadfast bravery, but it usually surfaces in situations that are less physically dangerous. Cancer patients, overworked single mothers, and trod-upon servants who maintain their sense of self-worth and hope all exhibit quiet bravery.
Not all brave characters are going to face death or save the world. Sometimes the bravest thing a person can do is take a chance to advance his own lot in life.
What is it? Personal bravery demands characters reach for the stars and chase their dreams. Instead of remaining in a bad situation and taking it and taking it, they risk everything for a chance at a better life. Personal bravery is perhaps the most common kind of bravery of all, since it’s something every single one of us chooses to exhibit at one point or another in our lives, whether it’s in dreaming of a better education, a better career, or just a life-changing trip around the world.
Here we find the domain of the anti-hero and the fatalist.
What is it? Devil-may-care bravery isn’t bravery so much as a cynical realization that death (or whatever the worst-case scenario may be) will come no matter what we do, ergo let’s meet it with arms stretched wide. Characters who have nothing to live for can often exhibit insane courage, but they’re doing it from a place of negativity.
Finally, we have the most dichotomous, and often the most compelling, bravery of all.
What is it? Frightened bravery finds the hero a knee-shaking, gut-churning, terrified mess. But he rises above it. He enters the fray in spite of his terror, and, in so doing, becomes the bravest of all characters. Frightened bravery can go hand in hand with any of the other types (save perhaps devil-may-care bravery), since the very act of overcoming fear is what makes a character brave.
None of these categories are exclusive. A character may well exhibit all six types of bravery during the course of your story, and often you’ll find the categories overlapping. In creating a strong character, it’s important not only that he qualify for at least one of these types of bravery, but also that you identify which is the strongest category, so you can further strengthen it on the page. Once you’ve done that, it’s almost a cinch readers will find your character fascinating.
Physical Quirks refer to any physical feature that makes a character individualistic. The character might have been born with this trait, or acquired it over the course of his or her life. They are usually the ones other characters notice first. It can be argued that all physical attributes of a character, from the color of his hair to the size of her feet, are quirks.
•always gets a sunburn
•always stands with his or her hands behind their back, sometimes in an “at ease” position, though he/she was never in the military
•can only hear out of one ear
•can only see out of one eye
•can’t stay clean; always dirty
•cracks his/her neck all the time
•drags his or her feet
•drools when hungry/excited
•foams at the mouth when excited/angry
•has a limp
•has a noticeable birthmark
•has a noticeable burn scar
•has a noticeable scar from a weapon
•has a noticeable tattoo
•has a piercing
•has a very, very bushy mustache
•has extremely hairy arms
•has several hidden body piercings or •tattoos that regular clothing conceal
•has several parts of his or her body that are double jointed and bend or flex in an unnatural or uncanny manner
•has vividly blue hair
•he has no beard
•he/she has allergies (to give more depth, give strong allergic reactions to the common nasty ones like nuts, bee stings, strawberries, pollen, cow’s milk, cats, horses, etc.)
•his/her feet are incredibly bad-smelling
•incessantly cracks knuckles
•is exclusively left-handed
•looks just like another character, or a famous figure of the day
•profusely sweats even when at rest
•puts hand on someone else’s hand/arm/shoulder/leg as much as possible when talking
•sneezes extra loud
•squints a lot
•thrives in cold weather, hates warm weather
•thrives in hot weather, hates cold weather
•walks as if he/she is afraid of being followed
•walks as if he/she is in constant danger of being attacked
•writes with left hand, but does everything else right-handed
Vocal Quirks refers to anything which is communicated by word of mouth. Anything about a character’s voice, the way he or she speaks, or how or why they speak is covered in this section. They are any qualities about a character’s voice that make that character unique. So, arguably, everything.
•has an accent (ex. irish brogue, french, russian)
•sometimes speaks about himself/herself in 3rd person
•mutters poetry under his/her breath
•is susceptible to malapropisms (an act or habit of misusing words ridiculously, especially by the confusion of words that are similar in sound) or spoonerisms (an accidental transposition of initial consonant sounds or parts of words)
excessively uses initials or acronyms for common and uncommon phrases and doesn’t bother to explain them
compulsively interrupts people telling stories to interject facts about the story that he or she only knows because they have been told the story before, not because they were involved with it
makes up random lies about unimportant things for no reason (this could also be a mania.)
•regularly mispronounces a certain word or uses redundant terms
•when stressed or lying, speaks from the corner of his or her mouth
•mutters spells or curses under his/her breath
•corrects people when they use colloquial speech
•ends declarative sentences with an interrogative inflection?
•is a mush mouth (ex. boomhauer of “king of the hill”)
•makes noises like “pow!” or “whap!” while doing everyday things
•uses big words to impress listeners
•doesn’t talk much, and uses short simple words when he/she does speak
•talks very softly, especially when involved in major arguments
•never uses contractions
•calls everyone by a pet name (ex. babe, sweetie, doll)
•repeats a common adage constantly (ex. never count your chickens before they’re hatched!)
•often mixes up sayings (ex. never count your chickens until the fat lady sings!)
in conversation, if a word has slipped his/•her mind, he/she will stop to think of it and will not give up until he/she finally recalls the right word
•distracted easily during conversation
puts hand on someone else’s hand/arm/shoulder/leg as much as possible when talking
•often seems to go out of his way to answer the exact question that was asked of him instead what the questioner obviously meant
•tells ”stories” with no point or conclusion
argues points with people who agree with him/her
•is fond of malapropisms, or cannot help making them (ex. psychotic for psychic)
hates quiet pauses in conversations
•laughs to himself/herself at intervals, for no apparent reason
•affects a consumptive cough
•hesitates before speaking, always considers his/her words first
•always lets out an involuntary nervous laugh before talking
•always laughs at his/her own jokes
•likes to use metaphor in nearly every sentence
•likes to make references to historical examples of a situation as much as possible
•tells dirty jokes, even when not appropriate
•stutters when excited
•poor vocabulary, spelling, and grammar
makes derogatory comments about people who aren’t there
•voice gets higher when he/she drinks
•talks to himself/herself
•talks to inanimate objects
•speaks without an discernible accent
constantly interrupts others
•speaks with poetic flair
•grunts for ”yes”, snarls for ”no”, shrugs for ”maybe”
•talks about objects as if they were people
•always gives the vaguest possible answer to questions
•always speaks at far too high a volume
conversations always turns to a particular or peculiar topic (ex. cats)
•never speaks unless spoken to
•always answers a question with a question
•always talks about his/her lost love
constantly tells jokes that aren’t funny
•calls all women “mother”
•has difficulty answering a question directly
•uses the word ”weasel” in conversation far too often.
•rhymes peoples’ names: ”well, hello there, arthur-barthur! saw geno-jalapeno the other day, you know.”
•mumbles or mutters instead of speaking clearly
•always talks of ”the good old days”
•always opens conversation on a new subject with the same phrase (ex. ”funny, i don’t know how i got to think of this, but…”)
•swears at the least opportunity