Writing Exercise: Character Traits- Lesson 3, Personality

All characters have specific personality traits that make up the core of how they react to things.  If I said to you “This person polishes her toenails every night” or “He posts In a Relationship with Bourbon as his status” or “She was damn proud of the fact she beat her cat” you can instantly see the personality and form an opinion of this character.  Some of the following list is just picking the one word. You can elaborate if some inspiration comes to you while picking the main personality trait. Other traits come with some imagination numbing effort.  This is where is gets difficult, but pays off in spades later on. I have literally had my characters get up and drive the plot because I did all the work to create them completely.

Personality traits

  1. Protagonist or Antagonist
The Protagonist is the hero or leader in every story. Does your character like to lead? Is she bossy-pants? They are proponents, advocates and trailblazers. On the other hand, the Antagonist mostly stands for opposition or adversary of everyone. These are the nemesis, foe, opponent, bad dudes.
  1. Introverted or Extroverted
Introverted is a shy or introspective person, a wallflower, icicle or shrinking violet. While the Extrovert is marked by interest in and behavior directed toward others or the environment to the exclusion of self; they are gregarious or outgoing. Super Cool Party People. Extroverted people you want to have at your party- you just want them to leave early.
  1. Intuition or Doubting
Intuition is the act of knowing or sensing without the use of rational processes. It is knowledge gained by the use of this faculty; a perceptive insight. Mothers use intuition as a tool for battling  little criminals. The Doubting personality trait is marred in disbelief, skepticism and lack of trust. Picture an old white guy on his front porch yelling at the kids for being on his lawn, watching News channels all day and talking about conspiracies to take away our guns (did I just describe Clint Eastwood?)
  1. Judging or Perceiving
Do they make snap judgments upon meeting new people? Do they decide someone is trustworthy (or not) based on their clothes, looks or ethnic background? If the answer is yes, then you have a Judy on your hands. If they are more perceiving, they are slow to critic and are more aware of all the details that go into making a person or situation. We all wish everyone were Perceiving when making a first impression (especially if it involves an involuntary Pratt fall).
  1. More Thinking than Feeling
People who are More Thinking contemplate and go over reason why they will or have done anything. They use logic to justify, they consider different options. They are descendants of Mr. Spock. Feeling people often say, “My gut told me” or “that old car was talking to me”. They also start sentences of complaint with “I feel that………….” This type of person I find more frightening than a rabid pack of Zombies.
  1. Life Goals
This is more than what did they want to be when they grew up. This is what they see themselves as, maybe not what they are, but in their Ego Vision. Try to be compartmentally specific: Love, health, work, home, offspring, even pets.
  1. Core Characteristic
This one is difficult and will make you squirm and run to do the dishes or pick up dog poop. Resist and push through.
A Core Characteristic is the one thing that makes the person who they are, like a Nazi or a Pop Star. Each person has one thing that they are that is to core to their personality, drive and inspiration.  You may have to work backward on this one, as the Core Characteristic is formed in childhood based usually on the traumas or boredom the child received. This will serve you well, so do not skip this step; it is a motivating factor on All Hero’s Journey’s.
  1. Biggest Contradiction
Is she a baker who hates bread? Is he a mechanic that doesn’t own a car? Are they a farm family living in the city? Do they love church, but hate God? This is another telling factor that will help drive your plot- make it interesting, unique, a paradox.

  1. Father, Son, Mother, Daughter
Who we are to the world in our emotional lives drives us. If they are parents, they will have a very different view than none spawning humans. If they are caretaking an elderly or sick child, that will also drive their motivation. Whether we have contact with our immediate family or not, this drives our personality atmosphere.
  1. Tends to be Victim / Persecutor / Savior
How do they respond to disparity? Do they sink away and sing “Poor Me”? Or do they turn and become vigilant and maybe even a savoir. Make sure your savoir is doing it for authentic reasons and not just becoming a martyr (or make them a martyr). In your mind, put them in a fight or flight situation and how do they react?
  1. Tends to be Innocent/Imposter/Ironic
Innocents are always that- people who are made of gossamer wings and fairy dust. They never say a bad word, think a bad thought or encounter trouble. Imposters look like this but are wrought with misfortune, for their hearts are not pure. Ironic people find both arch types ridiculous. They are led by irony and humor. They believe it is one big cosmic joke.
  1. Mostly Self Center/Selfless
Self-Centered people see the “what’s in it for me” of every situation. They tend to be narcissistic, misogynistic and super fun to write. This is the main characteristic of all villains and antagonists. Please categorize their self-centeredness, as this makes their evil ways even more pronounced. Selfless people react and deed for everyone else, sometime to their own detriment, but it is their make up so that cannot discontinue.
Here is your exercise for the day. Write a haiku about your kitchen sink. I know your brain is tired from this character building experience, so I am giving it the day off to play with rhyme.

(The entire Character lesson plan will be available after for one complete download and I do teach this 4-hour class live in person, contact me for either at livewell@teribayus.com).