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The Long List of Character Traits and Personality Types For Developing Fictional Characters

Updated on March 15, 2017
Natalie Frank profile image

Natalie Frank, Ph.D., is a Clinical Psychologist and editor who writes short stories, novellas, poetry, and essays on literature and writing

Whenever I’m creating new characters for a fiction project, I always find myself trying to determine the good points and bad points of each character. I start determining what I like about the protagonist and what I hate about the antagonist. I then reverse this and figure out what are the protagonist’s flaws and what positive traits does the antagonist possess. As no one is all good or all bad, this makes for well rounded, three dimensional characters. I then work on describing the positive and negative traits in my secondary characters.

I have found that I often get caught up in trying to describe to myself and sometimes to the reader what the traits are. This is especially the case since I don’t plan the plot before writing and so characters are frequently added along the way.

I used to just keep writing when I included a new character I hadn’t thought of at the beginning. However, this can result in hitting a point where I feel like I’m spinning my wheels because I’m not sure what the character should do or say. I have learned the importance of stopping when I add new characters to get to know the characters, likes dislikes, values etc.

Doing this off the top of my head, however, can lead to longer delays that are optimal, and losing my train of thought. In order to decrease the amount of time I spend developing new characters I have begun to create lists of different types of traits that I find useful. The lists included here should help you better determine who your characters are and what they are like so you have three dimensional, well rounded characters to move your plot forward.

Many of the traits listed here can be positive or negative depending on what they relate to and how you describe them in your narrative about your character. For example, take the adjective unconcerned. Unconcerned can describe someone who is unconcerned about the well-being of others which is a negative quality. It may also reflect a character who is unconcerned about a rumor about their wife’s infidelity since they trust her and know she wouldn’t betray them. This would likely be a positive quality.

When using this list determine if you want the trait to be positive or negative. Some of these traits may also be neutral in terms of not having either a negative or positive connotation. Traits for characters in your writing should never be neutral. There should be a reason you giving certain traits to a character in terms of helping or hindering them or other characters in getting what they want and setting up or avoiding obstacles. Make sure you have thought out why you have given certain characteristics to specific characters and that you show or imply the importance of each characters qualities somewhere in the work.

Negative Character Traits and Descriptors

  • Absent-minded
  • Aggressive
  • Afraid
  • Ambitious
  • Angry
  • Annoyed
  • Anxious
  • Argumentative
  • Awkward
  • Arrogant
  • Authoritarian
  • Babyish
  • Bad
  • Blasé
  • Bored
  • Bossy
  • Brutish
  • Carefree
  • Careless
  • Challenging
  • Childish
  • Circumspect
  • Clingy
  • Closed-minded
  • Clumsy
  • Coarse
  • Cold
  • Cold-hearted
  • Competitive
  • Conceited
  • Confused
  • Contradictory
  • Cowardly
  • Critical
  • Cross
  • Cruel
  • Cunning
  • Dangerous
  • Daring
  • Dark
  • Dauntless
  • Deceptive
  • Depressed
  • Deviant
  • Discouraged
  • Disheartened
  • Dishonest
  • Disloyal
  • Dismissive
  • Disorganized
  • Disorderly
  • Disrespectful
  • Domineering
  • Doubtful
  • Dominating
  • Driving
  • Droll
  • Dry
  • Doubtful
  • Embarrassed
  • Evil
  • Facetious
  • Fearful
  • Fearless
  • Feisty
  • Finicky
  • Foolish
  • Forgetful
  • Foul
  • Free wheeling
  • Frightened
  • Frugal
  • Frustrated
  • Fussy
  • Gloomy
  • Glum
  • Greedy
  • Grouchy
  • Grumpy
  • Guilty
  • Gullible
  • Harmful
  • Harsh
  • Hateful
  • Haughty
  • Hesitant
  • High Spirited
  • Hopeless
  • Hot-tempered
  • Hopeless
  • Hurtful
  • Ignorant
  • Ill-bred
  • Immature
  • Impatient
  • Impersonal
  • Impolite
  • Impressionable
  • Inactive
  • Inconsiderate
  • Inconsistent
  • Indecisive
  • Inflexible
  • Insecure
  • Insincere
  • Intense
  • Intolerant
  • Invisible
  • Irreverent
  • Jealous
  • Jovial
  • Lackadaisical
  • Lazy
  • Liar
  • Lonely
  • Loud
  • Malicious
  • Manipulative
  • Materialistic
  • Mean
  • Meek
  • Melodramatic
  • Messy
  • Mischievous
  • Moody
  • Moralistic
  • Murderous
  • Mysterious
  • Naive
  • Naughty
  • Nervous
  • Noisy
  • Obnoxious
  • Obsessive
  • Perverse
  • Pessimistic
  • Picky
  • Plain
  • Poor
  • Possessive
  • Pretentious
  • Quarrelsome
  • Reckless
  • Repugnant
  • Repulsive
  • Restless
  • Rigid
  • Risk-taking
  • Rowdy
  • Rude
  • Sad
  • Sarcastic
  • Scared
  • Scheming
  • Secretive
  • Self-Centered
  • Self-Confident
  • Self-Indulging
  • Selfish
  • Self-Pitying
  • Sharp
  • Shy
  • Sly
  • Simple minded
  • Skeptical
  • Sneaky
  • Snobbish
  • Spoiled
  • Stern
  • Strange
  • Strict
  • Stubborn
  • Submissive
  • Superficial
  • Superstitious
  • Suspicious
  • Tactless
  • Tardy
  • Thoughtless
  • Timid
  • Tireless
  • Touchy
  • Unconcerned
  • Uncoordinated
  • Unemotional
  • Unforgiving
  • Unfriendly
  • Ungrateful
  • Unhappy
  • Unkind
  • Unimaginative
  • Unmotivated
  • Unreliable
  • Unruly
  • Untrustworthy
  • Upset
  • Vacant
  • Vengeful
  • Violent
  • Weak
  • Wicked
  • Wild
  • Withdrawn
  • Worried
  • Wrong
  • Zany

Positive Character Traits and Descriptors

  • Accessible
  • Active
  • Adaptable
  • Admirable
  • Adventurous
  • Agreeable
  • Alert
  • Amiable
  • Amusing
  • Anticipative
  • Appreciative
  • Artful
  • Articulate
  • Aspiring
  • Athletic
  • Authoritative
  • Attractive
  • Balanced
  • Benevolent
  • Brilliant
  • Calm
  • Capable
  • Captivating
  • Caring
  • Challenging
  • Charismatic
  • Charming
  • Cheerful
  • Clean
  • Clear-headed
  • Clever
  • Colorful
  • Companionly
  • Compassionate
  • Conciliatory
  • Confident
  • Conscientious
  • Considerate
  • Constant
  • Contemplative
  • Cooperative
  • Courageous
  • Courteous
  • Creative
  • Cultured
  • Curious
  • Daring
  • Debonair
  • Decent
  • Decisive
  • Dedicated
  • Deep
  • Determined
  • Dignified
  • Directed
  • Disciplined
  • Discreet
  • Doubting
  • Down to earth
  • Dramatic
  • Dutiful
  • Dynamic
  • Earnest
  • Easy - going
  • Ebullient
  • Educated
  • Efficient
  • Elegant
  • Eloquent
  • Empathetic
  • Energetic
  • Enthusiastic
  • Esthetic
  • Exciting
  • Extraordinary
  • Fair
  • Faithful
  • Farsighted
  • Felicific
  • Firm
  • Flexible
  • Focused
  • Forceful
  • Forgiving
  • Forthright
  • Freethinking
  • Friendly
  • Fun-loving
  • Gallant
  • Generous
  • Gentle
  • Genuine
  • Glamorous
  • Go-getter
  • Good-natured
  • Gracious
  • Hardworking
  • Healthy
  • Hearty
  • Helpful
  • Heroic
  • High-minded
  • Honest
  • Honorable
  • Humble
  • Humorous
  • Idealistic
  • Imaginative
  • Impressive
  • Incisive
  • Incorruptible
  • Independent
  • Individualistic
  • Innovative
  • Inoffensive
  • Insightful
  • Insouciant
  • Intelligent
  • Intuitive
  • Invulnerable
  • Kind
  • Knowledge
  • Leisurely
  • Liberal
  • Logical
  • Lovable
  • Loyal
  • Lyrical
  • Magnanimous
  • Many-sided
  • Masculine (Manly)
  • Mature
  • Mellow
  • Methodical
  • Meticulous
  • Moderate
  • Modest
  • Multi-leveled
  • Neat
  • Objective
  • Observant
  • Open
  • Optimistic
  • Orderly
  • Organized
  • Original
  • Painstaking
  • Passionate
  • Patient
  • Patriotic
  • Peaceful
  • Perceptive
  • Perfectionist
  • Personable
  • Persuasive
  • Planful
  • Playful
  • Polished
  • Popular
  • Practical
  • Precise
  • Principled
  • Profound
  • Protean
  • Protective
  • Providential
  • Prudent
  • Punctual
  • Purposeful
  • Rational
  • Realistic
  • Reflective
  • Relaxed
  • Reliable
  • Resourceful
  • Respectful
  • Responsible
  • Responsive
  • Reverential
  • Romantic
  • Rustic
  • Sage
  • Sane
  • Scholarly
  • Scrupulous
  • Secure
  • Selfless
  • Self-critical
  • Self-defacing
  • Self-denying
  • Self-reliant
  • Self-sufficient
  • Sensitive
  • Sentimental
  • Seraphic
  • Serious
  • Sexy
  • Sharing
  • Shrewd
  • Simple
  • Skillful
  • Sober
  • Sociable
  • Solid
  • Sophisticated
  • Spontaneous
  • Sporting
  • Stable
  • Steadfast
  • Steady
  • Stoic
  • Strong
  • Studious
  • Suave
  • Subtle
  • Sweet
  • Sympathetic
  • Systematic
  • Tasteful
  • Thorough
  • Tidy
  • Tolerant
  • Tractable
  • Trusting
  • Uncomplaining
  • Understanding
  • Undogmatic
  • Upright
  • Urbane
  • Venturesome
  • Vivacious
  • Warm
  • Well-bred
  • Well-read
  • Well-rounded
  • Winning
  • Wise
  • Witty
  • Youthful

Personality Traits and Types

Personality traits have been defined in numerous ways and different methods of creating personality profiles have been developed. I find that one of the most enjoyable techniques of determining a characters personality is to take free online personality tests answering as would my character. The most popular personality theory envisions five personality factors. These can be used in combination to help you create your characters personalities. These are:

Openness to Experience

Characteristics of this factor include enjoying adventure, curiosity, appreciating novelty, sensation seeking and often looking for new experiences. Their motto is "Variety is the spice of life." Low openness is expressed by the opposite characteristics including a preference for sameness and dreading change, avoiding new experiences and ways of doing things and disliking excitement and adventure.

Conscientiousness

Conscientiousness is defined by organization, a strong sense of duty, dependability, discipline, being achievement oriented, and planning. Low conscientiousness is characterized by spontaneity, carelessness and a freewheeling nature. Conscientiousness is associated with school accomplishments and high work status.

Extroversion

Extroversion is similar to be a social butterfly, and is characterized by chattiness, an outgoing nature, and the tendency to gain energy from social environments and crowds. Assertiveness and a cheerful disposition is also associated with extroversion. Introversion is characterized by reclusiveness, needing time alone, low social involvement, the preference for solo or small group activities and a quiet nature.

Agreeableness

Agreeableness is a measure of the extent of a person's warmth, trust in others, helpfulness, compassion and kindness. Disagreeableness involves a cold disposition, being suspicious of others and being unlikely to compromise or cooperate. Disagreeableness has also been associated with poor mood and pessimism.

Neuroticism

Neuroticism is an indication of frequent worrying even when things are going well, the tendency to experience and anxiety and depression related to worrying and fears about the future. When individuals high in neuroticism are rewarded for their efforts it actually makes them less happy because they believe things cannot go well for them so something equally bad is about to happen. Those low in neuroticism are even tempered, emotionally grounded and tend to see the world optimistically while maintaining a realistic outlook. High levels of neuroticism are associate with poor health and maladaptive coping such as using drugs and alcohol to handle worries and negative mood.

Applications

When determining the nature of your characters it is important to provide them with both positive and negative characteristics to make them more realistic instead of caricatures of superheroes and villains. The lists provided here can help you both in defining and describing the different natures of your characters. Letting the reader learn about the character through actions that display their nature, personality characteristics, predominant mood state and values will help your characters be perceived as multifaceted and complex. This will provide an indication of depth, and differences in perspective, world view and ways of interacting with their environment.

Use the personality factors to flesh out your characters by assigning specific personality qualities to them will allow them to have some predictability. This will make the reader feel as if they know the characters, as they can relate to recognizable types and traits. At the same time, the complicated nature of personalities will still allow for surprises in how your characters act and how their individual arcs develop.

© 2017 Natalie Frank

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    • SakinaNasir53 profile image

      Sakina Nasir 

      18 months ago from Kuwait

      Great hub Natalie! Amazingly written and researched. Really very, very, useful. Thanks for sharing this here. :)

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