Character Traits

Character traits are a combination of the different qualities that define a character, such as thoughts, feelings, personality, and the choices they make. In short, these character traits make them who they are.

What are character traits?

Character traits describe a character’s qualities. It’s those aspects of their personalities and their choices that make them who they are. They’re how you would describe a character to someone else.

Think of the heroes and villains in your favorite novels. What character traits do they share?

Character Traits Examples

Positive Character Traits Examples

  • loyal
  • generous
  • kind
  • sincere
  • persistent
  • open-minded
  • brave
  • quiet
  • fair
  • selfless
  • optimistic

Negative Character Traits Examples

  • dishonest
  • disloyal
  • mean
  • jealous
  • cruel
  • greedy
  • impatient
  • petty
  • selfish
  • unforgiving

What are character traits in stories?

Not only do character traits help to describe the character, but they also help to drive the story forward.

The main character’s personal qualities are essential to the story. If the main character is timid and stays inside all the time, there wouldn’t be much of a story! It is why the main characters are often outgoing or adventurous. Indeed, familiar character archetypes are the fearless hero and their loyal friend. These traits help to drive the plot forwards and into something interesting.

Character traits are a great way to show personal growth throughout the story. In the beginning, the character might have their head in the clouds. However, by the end, they may have learned to be more realistic. Can you and your pupils think of any stories where this has been the case?

Many traits can also be both strengths and weaknesses, which helps to make the story more interesting. In the case of the main character, they may be brave and heroic, always looking to save the day. While it’s easy to see this as a strength (helping people is a great thing to do!), it can also be a weakness.

A character that is too brave and heroic might end up getting themselves into some trouble! For example, if they try to save someone and end up getting hurt themselves or making the situation worse.

Character traits like being shy and quiet are often seen as a weakness in the character, but they can also be a strength. These characters are great at spying and learning the villain’s well-guarded secrets. They can also support other characters, such as listening to them when they need someone to hear them.

A character with well-written traits should feel like someone you might meet.

What is the point of flaws in a character?

It’s tempting to want your protagonist to be perfect, but their flaws are some of the essential character traits they have. Complex and fallible characters are infinitely more interesting than two-dimensional characters that are blindly heroic and only ever do the right thing. These characters aren’t realistic, whereas characters with flaws reflect real life and ourselves much more.

As well as simply being more engaging, flaws are crucial for helping move the plot on and driving the story. As explained above, defects such as being overly brave or always having your head in the clouds can create fascinating plot points and land characters in sticky situations, providing engaging material for the reader. In addition, flaws are necessary for character growth, which helps to propel a story forward.

In classical tragedies, the protagonist always has a fatal flaw. It is a primary flaw that causes many issues the narrative deals with or prevents them from moving past problems. Hubris is the most famous example of a fatal flaw, a classical term for unending pride and arrogance. If a character is very conceited and arrogant, they won’t admit their mistakes and cannot learn and grow.

How are character traits shown?

When you read a story or watch a TV show or film, you learn character traits through dialogue and action and how the characters are described. Their traits inform how they talk and act, especially around other people.

From these things, we can infer their personality and what they think and feel.

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