Once upon a time, right before I profiled my characters for ‘Anina’, I wrote a list of characters I liked just to give me an idea on what makes a character a great character. In that list, included were those characters’ traits and even though I already knew it, it still amazed me to see that what made those characters great are not their good traits but how they were written, because, honestly, their negative traits outweigh the good. What I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t matter how characteristically awful the characters are, or the fact that in real life, you wouldn’t even try associating with these kinds of characters, but in fiction if they’re written masterfully, then they’re great characters and they made stories so much better. They make the plot moves.
So that’s why, when I saw the prompt for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday – Character Traits I Love – I decided right away that I would share Negative Traits that I think make stories more interesting. By the way, this meme is hosted by Jana or That Artsy Reader Girl and you can know more about this meme and many other awesomeness in her blog.
Now, to the top ten negative traits I like in stories…
Brooding characters are also aloof and mysterious, first of all. This trait really works great in Romance, also in all genres , but most especially to Romance. In romance, there’s nothing more enjoyable than reading about two characters, one is hating (or sometimes trying to figure out) the one who is brooding, and then finding out what the heck is the reason for the brooding. I’m looking at you Mr. Darcy. On a darker side of the brooding-type, we can look at Prof. Snape or Heathcliff from “Wuthering Heights”.
NOPE, not in romance but in other genres like mystery, suspense, crime or even sci-fi. Let’s not romanticise obsession because it is NOT healthy to obsesses over other person but if the obsession is a fruit of an ambition or a goal and then because of that, the person did something that results to something evil, then it is a great element in a story. Something evil, like a crime or you know, everything made by mad scientists, say like Victor Frankenstein.
3.) Ill-tempered (or Grumpy)
I wanted to see this trait in a much darker color but “Ove” in “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman keeps invading my mind so let’s settled with the grumpy or ill-tempered that is somehow adorable. So see, grumpiness, if done right can make a characters adorable and easy to love.
This must be the most negative trait in this list but hear me out. A destructive character can be many things and you can define this trait in anyway you want, but one thing for sure, s/he can make a story a hundred times more worth reading because a ‘destructive character‘ breathes out conflicts and what is a story without conflicts. And really, we can all other negative traits in this list, destructive.
This, on the other hand, is the most positive in this list despite it being a negative trait because let’s be honest, unapologetic people can be annoying if done wrong. Unapologetic people can be selfish who care for nothing but themselves and what they want. Thankfully we are blessed in literature with unapologetic characters who appear strong and brave rather than selfish. Unapologetic characters know who they are and what they want. They go for it and likely to succeed.
I love stubborn characters because they annoy other characters. hehe. But on a more serious note, stubborn characters are likely to make mistakes and mistakes are usually what makes a character development more satisfying and more believable.
7.) Cunning / Sly / Deceptive / Sneaky
Apologies for providing you synonyms for liars. Truly, I found these traits the most interesting. It’s because these three traits are really negative but most of the times they become positive depends on the reason and intent of the person. This is especially true in fiction. That’s why I love characters who have these traits because it’s so fascinating to see or discover what made or pushed them to be like it. Then they make me question the definition of right and wrong. Gosh, I’m so fascinated by these traits.
I was watching “The Lorax” last weekend with my 4-year old cousin and I am once again convinced that greed is one of the best negative traits authors can ever give to their characters. Why, because greed always bear the wrong fruits. I mean, all of the traits in this list bear wrong fruits but with greed, it’s always comes with the most emotional realization and most important lesson. Once a character let greed takes over, there’ll be shortage of something as a result and most of the times that something is very hard to find or produce again.
Okay, unfortunately I only got to list eight (8) negative traits, it’s because other traits would be just synonyms of the one I listed. In fact, I have the “Destructive” above which covers lots of negative traits. But I hope you enjoyed reading why I like these traits in the characters of the books I read.
I just want to clear it again, I only like these traits in fiction because they results to conflicts and move the plot. I definitely don’t want them in people in real life, and not in myself – except maybe unapologetic.
Now, what do you think of these traits? Do you find them negative at all? Positive? Why? Let’s chat, OK?