Review: The Negative Trait Thesaurus

The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character FlawsThe Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws by Angela Ackerman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the fourth book I’ve purchased in this writing craft series, and I’d highly recommend adding it to your shelf if you are a writer. It is a great tool for adding depth and variety to your characters.

Heroes versus villains. Good guys should have good traits and bad guys should have bad ones, right? But people aren’t all good or all bad. Every character needs to have both positive and negative traits to be believable, but it’s a tricky balance. It’s all a matter of degree.

One of my favorite articles prefacing the thesaurus itself (each of these books comes with a section of short, informative articles) is about the different degrees to which a negative trait can complicate a character’s life. They call them Sparks, Fireworks, and Explosions. For example, a character can have a negative trait like “stubborn.” That might result in butting heads with a coworker if it’s a spark level trait, but if it’s the character’s major flaw it could also mean a leader letting his men die because he refuses to admit he was wrong.

There’s also the fact that all traits can be seen as both negative and positive depending on the situation. The general who wouldn’t let his troops retreat because he was too stubborn to admit he was wrong could be the same general who gets a medal because he held his ground against hostile forces until reinforcements arrived, thereby turning the tide of battle. In that case, we might replace the word stubborn with determined, unwavering, or stalwart. As such, each entry in this thesaurus includes a sections on the “positive aspects” of the trait.

Obviously the authors couldn’t fit every possible trait into a single book, but there are enough, and enough variety, that you should be able to find something close to your character’s flaws and get some good ideas about how to portray them realistically, and how your character can overcome them.

For more information on this and other books in the series, check out the Writers Helping Writers website.

View all my reviews

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