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Character Traits List for Creative Writers (with Examples)

character traits list

Ever found yourself stuck in a character development rut, staring at your manuscript and wondering why your protagonist feels more like a cardboard cutout than a three-dimensional human? 

Fear not, dear writer, because I’m about to unleash the ultimate guide to character traits that’ll breathe life into your fictional folks. In this article, we’ll explore the nitty-gritty of character traits, dissecting the good, the bad, and the just plain interesting. 

Whether you’re crafting a hero who radiates empathy or a villain who oozes deceit, these traits will help you create characters that leap off the page and into your readers’ hearts (or nightmares). 

So, grab your coffee, and let’s enter the wonderful world of character traits to spark your creativity and amp up your storytelling game.

What Are Character Traits?

Alright, let’s break it down. Character traits are the magical ingredients in the cauldron of your character creation. They’re the qualities, attitudes, and values that define who a character is at their very core. Think of them as the secret spice blend that transforms your characters from bland tofu into a five-star feast.

These traits can be positive, negative, or somewhere in the morally ambiguous middle. They shape how your characters think, feel, and act, making them as unpredictable and multifaceted as your last relationship. By understanding and wielding these traits like a seasoned chef, you can whip up characters that are relatable, dynamic, and memorable.

Positive traits are the shiny heroes of your story. We’re talking empathy, resilience, creativity—the kind of traits that make readers go, “Wow, I want to be friends with this person!” They help your characters navigate life’s roller coaster with a grace that would make a tightrope walker jealous.

But let’s not forget about the deliciously dark side. Negative traits like jealousy, impulsiveness, and dishonesty add the spice of conflict and tension. They challenge your characters, pushing them to grow or crash and burn spectacularly. 

Then, we have the neutral traits. These are the wild cards, traits that can be both a blessing and a curse, like sensitivity, ambition, skepticism. They add layers of complexity, making your characters as unpredictable as a cat on a caffeine binge.

By mixing and matching these traits, your characters will have strengths to admire, flaws to forgive, and quirks that make them unforgettable.

In the following sections, we’ll explore lists of specific character traits, complete with examples, to spark your creativity. Whether you’re designing a hero, a villain, or something enticingly in between, understanding character traits is key to making your characters come alive—and stay alive—in the wild world of your imagination.

what are character traits

Positive Characteristics List

These traits can help individuals navigate various aspects of life and foster positive relationships, both with themselves and others.

Emotional Traits

  • Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feelings of another
  • Compassion: Sympathy and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others
  • Resilience: The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties
  • Patience: The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious
  • Optimism: Hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something
  • Gratitude: The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation and to return kindness

Mental Traits

  • Creativity: The use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness
  • Curiosity: A strong desire to know or learn something
  • Critical Thinking: The objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment
  • Focus: The ability to concentrate on a task without getting distracted
  • Adaptability: The quality of being able to adjust to new conditions
  • Perseverance: Persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success

Interpersonal Traits

  • Communication: The ability to convey information to others effectively and efficiently
  • Teamwork: The combined action of a group, especially when effective and efficient
  • Respectfulness: Showing regard for the rights, feelings, and traditions of others
  • Trustworthiness: The ability to be relied on as honest or truthful
  • Humor: The quality of being amusing or comic
  • Leadership: The action of leading a group of people or an organization

Moral Traits

  • Integrity: The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles
  • Fairness: Impartial and just treatment or behavior without favoritism or discrimination
  • Courage: The ability to do something that frightens one; bravery
  • Humility: A modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness
  • Responsibility: The state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone
  • Honesty: The quality of being honest; truthfulness

positive characteristics

Negative Character Traits

These traits can negatively impact an individual’s life and relationships, creating barriers to personal growth and social harmony.

Emotional Traits

  • Jealousy: Feeling or showing envy of someone 
  • Anxiety: A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, often about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome
  • Resentfulness: Feeling bitter or indignant about being treated unfairly
  • Impatience: The tendency to be quickly irritated or provoked
  • Pessimism: A tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen
  • Self-pity: Excessive, self-absorbed unhappiness over one’s own troubles

Mental Traits

  • Close-mindedness: Unwilling to consider new ideas; having a narrow perspective
  • Indifference: Lack of interest, concern, or sympathy
  • Impulsiveness: Acting without thought or consideration of the consequences
  • Inconsistency: The quality of lacking a fixed pattern; unpredictability
  • Rigidity: Inability to be changed or adapted
  • Negativity: The tendency to be downbeat, disagreeable, and skeptical

Interpersonal Traits

  • Dishonesty: The tendency to lie or deceive
  • Selfishness: Lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure
  • Manipulativeness: Controlling or influencing others in a skillful but often unfair or selfish way
  • Arrogance: Having an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance
  • Rudeness: Lack of manners or consideration for others
  • Unreliability: Not able to be trusted or depended on

Moral Traits

  • Greed: Intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food
  • Hypocrisy: The practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform
  • Cowardice: Lack of bravery
  • Pride: Excessive view of one’s self without regard for others
  • Irresponsibility: Lack of proper sense of responsibility
  • Deceitfulness: The quality of being deceitful; misleading others

negative characteristics

Neutral Personality Traits

These traits are inherently neutral but can be perceived as positive or negative based on the situation and how they are expressed or interpreted by others.

Emotional Traits

  • Sensitivity: The quality of being sensitive to emotions and situations, can lead to empathy but also to being easily hurt
  • Cautiousness: Careful to avoid potential problems or dangers, can be prudent but also overly hesitant
  • Stoicism: Endurance of pain or hardship without displaying feelings or complaint, can be seen as strength or emotional suppression
  • Apathy: Lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern, can mean calm detachment or indifference
  • Sentimentality: Excessive tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia, can be touching or overly emotional

Mental Traits

  • Curiosity: A strong desire to know or learn something, can lead to discovery or unnecessary interference
  • Skepticism: Doubt as to the truth of something, can promote critical thinking or lead to cynicism
  • Pragmatism: Dealing with things sensibly and realistically, can be practical or un-idealistic
  • Objectivity: The quality of being objective can lead to fairness or detachment
  • Daydreaming: The activity of thinking about pleasant things that you would like to happen, can inspire creativity or lead to inattention

Interpersonal Traits

  • Assertiveness: Confident and forceful behavior, can be positive in self-advocacy or negative in aggressiveness
  • Independence: Self-reliance and freedom from outside control, can be empowering or isolating
  • Loyalty: A strong feeling of support or allegiance, can foster trust or lead to blind allegiance
  • Flexibility: Willingness to change or compromise, can be adaptive or indecisive
  • Conformity: Compliance with standards, rules, or laws, can ensure harmony or stifle individuality

Moral Traits

  • Ambition: A strong desire to do or achieve something, can lead to success or ruthless behavior
  • Obedience: Compliance with an order, request, or law, or submission to another’s authority, can ensure order or suppress autonomy
  • Frugality: The quality of being economical with money or food, can be seen as thriftiness or miserliness
  • Perfectionism: The refusal to accept any standard short of perfection, can drive excellence or lead to stress
  • Modesty: The quality of being modest, can be seen as humility or lack of self-confidence

Physical Character Traits List

General Appearance

  • Height: Tall, short, average
  • Build: Slim, athletic, stocky, muscular, overweight
  • Skin Tone: Fair, olive, tan, dark
  • Hair Type: Straight, wavy, curly, coiled
  • Hair Color: Blonde, brunette, redhead, black, gray, dyed

Specific Features

  • Freckles: Absent, light, heavy
  • Scars: None, small, prominent
  • Tattoos: None, few, many
  • Piercings: None, ears, facial, body
  • Birthmarks: None, small, large, distinctive

Movement and Mannerisms

  • Gait: Confident, graceful, shuffling, brisk, lumbering
  • Gestures: Expressive, restrained, fluid, jerky, deliberate
  • Posture: Straight, relaxed, rigid, slouched, poised
  • Facial Expressions: Animated, reserved, neutral, expressive, stoic
  • Eye Contact: Direct, fleeting, intense, avoiding, steady
  • Hand Movements: Still, fidgety, sweeping, precise, trembling


  • Casual: Jeans and t-shirts, hoodies, sneakers
  • Formal: Suits, dresses, blazers, polished shoes
  • Trendy: Latest fashion, statement pieces, bold patterns
  • Bohemian: Flowy fabrics, earthy tones, eclectic accessories
  • Sporty: Athletic wear, tracksuits, sports shoes
  • Classic: Timeless pieces, neutral colors, simple lines

How to Use Character Traits in Your Writing

So, you’ve got a bunch of character traits ready to go. But how do you integrate them into your story in a way that feels organic and compelling? It’s all about connecting those traits to the deeper elements of your character’s journey. Let’s break it down, piece by piece.

A Character’s Misbelief

Every character carries around a core misbelief—a fundamental, often misguided idea about themselves or the world. This misbelief shapes their actions and decisions. 

For example, a character might believe they’re unlovable, leading them to push people away. Your character traits should align with this misbelief, creating a believable and cohesive personality.

Their Core Wound

Dig deep, and you’ll find a core wound at the heart of your character’s misbelief. This is the emotional injury that haunts them, usually stemming from a traumatic or formative event. 

Character traits like resilience or fearfulness can spring from this wound, influencing how your character interacts with the world and others.

Their Fatal Flaw

A character’s core wound often ties into their fatal flaw, a significant character weakness they must overcome. At first it is an obstacle, but then it becomes a growing edge, and by the end of the novel, your protagonist has faced and started the path to fixing their fatal flaw. 

Their Worldview

Your character’s traits also form their worldview—the lens through which they see everything. This worldview colors their interactions and decisions. 

For instance, an optimistic character will approach challenges differently than a pessimistic one. Align their traits with their worldview to ensure consistency and depth.

Growth Arc 

Characters are like fine wine—they should evolve over time. At the beginning of your story, they’re stuck in their ways, defined by their core misbelief and wounds. Their internal goals, often related to their weaknesses, will hinder them and are something they must strive to overcome. 

By the end, they’ve (hopefully) learnt and grown. Maybe that pessimistic character learns to find hope or the selfish one discovers the joy of generosity.

What Do They Want?

Your character’s external POV goal creates the plot’s momentum, driving your character into action and keeping readers hooked as they navigate challenges and pursue their ambitions. It gives them something to strive for within the story and ties directly to the character’s traits. 

By addressing these goals throughout the story, you maintain a strong narrative thread that ties your character’s actions to their ultimate desires.

Relevant Stakes

Story stakes should define the ultimate risks involved if the character fails to achieve their POV goal. The stakes in your story tell us what happens if the POV character fails to achieve their goal. High stakes keep readers on the edge of their seats, but they must be relevant to your character. 

Putting It All Together

Let’s say you’re writing about a character named Alex. Alex’s core misbelief is that they’re unworthy of love (misbelief), stemming from a childhood of neglect (core wound). They view the world as a place where everyone must fend for themselves (worldview). At the start, Alex is closed off and distrustful (traits).

Alex wants to secure a promotion (external goal), but what they really need is to learn to trust others and accept love (internal goal). Throughout the story, Alex faces situations that challenge their distrust and isolation (stakes). By the end, Alex opens up, realizing their worth and finding genuine connections (growth arc).

To keep all these elements straight and ensure they develop cohesively, Fictionary’s powerful software is your best friend. It allows you to track characters seamlessly. This ensures your characters evolve naturally and your story remains engaging from start to finish.

So, armed with these insights and tools, you’re ready to craft characters that are not only memorable but also integral to the heartbeat of your story. Happy writing!

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