Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly themed post hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s prompt is “Character Traits I Love.” I’m going to say right off the bat that this is not my best Top Ten Tuesday post, in terms of finding pictures and quotes; it has been a stressful couple days and I don’t have the mental energy for that 😓. That said, here’s my list of ten traits I love to see in characters (and yes, there are definitely some recurring themes…)
Is this really a surprise to anyone? I live for the snarky characters, especially the ones who make me laugh out loud with their commentary. Bonus points if you have two sarcastic characters who feed off each other.
2. Unflinching loyalty (especially if reluctantly given)
The only thing better than a character who will do anything for a cause (or those they love) is a character who doesn’t do so for just anyone. Hard-won loyalty means a lot more. (And it makes a really awesome foundation for a romance, just saying.) Note that this trait is great in both heroes and villains--dedication and obsession aren’t too different, after all.
Note that this does not say “nice.” Goody-two-shoes are boring to read about. But characters who know just what to do to make someone smile, or who genuinely care about people (or even one person) and show it? That’s good stuff, right there.
4. Questionable personal moral code
It isn’t that I like my characters to make objectionable choices or be unnaturally cruel. But I do find it more interesting to get in the heads of characters who have to do things that others might not agree with. This pairs really well with #2 on my list–when the moral code is fueled by a narrow allegiance, and when it is strictly adhered to because of that loyalty, that’s my jam.
5. Bravado to compensate for self-doubt
I think the reason I like this one is rooted in my love of characters with complicated, sometimes conflicted emotional lives. Putting up a facade is a strategy a lot of people employ to cope with negative experiences or feelings, but I especially like when we get glimmers of vulnerability under the shiny veneer of “I’m awesome and have my life totally together.”
Maybe this should be a given, but I can’t stand characters who give up right away and wallow all the time. I get needing time for emotions, and obviously books about abuse or mental illness might require a different angle to be taken on this, but in general, I don’t want a helpless character. I want a princess who fights to save herself, a convict who argues their way out of jail, a man who will stop at nothing to help his family.
This trait only applies to side characters. When the main character is mysterious and we don’t know much about them, it’s annoying. When someone else is mysterious and the main character has to figure them out, that’s way more fun.
I’m talking mastermind-level strategic. The characters who can think five steps ahead of everyone else, who treat life like one big chess game and can anticipate anything, with a dozen contingency plans just in case. The best is when you don’t quite know everything they’ve set up until it all comes together at the end in rapid sequence!
What can I say? Like calls to like. I’m a bookworm, and I like when there are characters who feel the same. It’s even better when the character is someone who comes across as tough and “too cool” for reading but secretly has a soft spot for the written word. Then I can pretend that I, too, am both a badass and a bibliophile, even if only the latter is really true.
I know, most of this list had darker and/or angstier traits, but it’s always good to have that one character who doesn’t take anything that seriously. Whether they show it through jokes, aimlessness, optimism, or a general irreverence, these sorts of characters make for a welcome break from the strife, stress, turmoil, turbulence, and other negative parts of the narrative.
What about you? What are some of your favorite traits to read about? Do you like (or loathe) any of these? Let me know!
All the best,