Negative traits for your characters

Last week, I wrote about positive traits for your characters. But you don’t want a character who can do no wrong or is liked by everyone.

negative 2You need a balanced, well-rounded character. No one has only positive traits. There must be some negative traits in your protagonist (just like your antagonist needs positive traits).

Today I want to look at one of the ways flaws can cause friction between characters as well as go a little more into flaws for your villain.

Negative flaws and friction between characters

Internal Conflict – Self-doubt, bitterness, and jealousy (among others) can create conflict within our characters. Not only can they struggle internally with these feelings but these strong emotions change how our characters behave when interacting with others.

This can lead to sparks, fireworks and explosions in their relationships.

Sparks – Consider this the lowest level of tension or friction between characters. Your character is impatient, frustrated or disappointed or perhaps caused these feelings in one of the supporting cast. This leads to a verbal exchange which adds a strain to a friendship.

Fireworks – Consider this the intermediate level of tension or friction between characters. Emotions here have been kicked up a notch. Arguments ensue and have a lasting impact on the relationship. Healing the rift is possible, but it may take time and effort.

Explosions – Consider this the highest level of tension or friction between characters. This is where raw, uncontrolled anger, betrayal or humiliation come into play. Things may be broken, insults are flung, and secrets might be revealed. Trust is shattered, and relationships are broken. If reconciliation does occur, the relationship is never the same as it was before.

Just like in real life when you argue with your spouse or become annoyed with your brother, mother, or friend, these same things need to happen to your characters.

Villains and their flaws

As I said before, you should not create a villain with only negative flaws. You need to let the reader catch a glimpse of a redeeming quality or two.

The antagonist has dreams, needs and desires. In his eyes, his goals are just and reasonable. Often his negative traits are fuel for moving forward with his plan. Many negative traits are just positive ones taken too far.

You need to work just a hard on your antagonist as you do your protagonist. Delve into his past and find out what made him the way he is today. Remember no one is born evil or bad. Something (often many things) helped shaped who they are today.

negative 1If you need help on what negative traits to give your character – controlling, gullible, obsessive, temperamental or whiny – or perhaps you don’t know what types of behaviors would be associated with these traits, then I would recommend checking out The Negative Trait Thesaurus.

This guide discusses everything I mentioned above with more details and then lists 106 negative traits along with associated behaviors/thoughts as well as what type of positive and negative aspects this attribute can have on a character. It also lists examples and challenging scenario ideas for characters with these traits.