The Negative Trait Thesaurus
Self-proclaimed as 'the writer's guide to character flaws' this book in the thesaurus series tackles negative traits as well as tips on character building. When I started creating characters, I listed all the things I wanted them to do and achieve, what skills they possessed and what made them unique. It took some time to realize I'd made bland, uninteresting people. Light needs dark, good needs bad. The balance of positive and negative traits is what makes a character come to life on the page.
There's a section in this book that especially intrigued me. It explains how and why countering your protagonist and villain is important. Give your main character flaws the antagonist views as strengths and vice versa. Both the good and bad guy of your story need to fear the other, otherwise, they wouldn't have a conflict in the first place.
I'm choosing the trait 'impatient' to dive further into what the book offers. After the simpler tools like the definition and flaws that run in the same vein, a list of possible causes proceeds. It states impatience can stem from immaturity, needing instant gratification, having wealth, or an egocentric attitude to name a few. If you choose this trait for one of your characters, this list can spark some ideas when it comes to building a backstory.
Saying your character is impatient is different than showing it. The book provides associated behaviors and attitudes which you can incorporate in the plot. Competitive, irritability, offering unsolicited advice. All these suggestions can be used in-scene to make a story more believable.
Finally, the thesaurus provides suggestions for conflict. An impatient person might find a cautious, indecisive, or meticulous character annoying. Clashing personalities cause dynamic interactions, and isn't that what we want to read?
If you want to check out the book for yourself, follow the link below.
What's your favorite self-help book, writing or otherwise?