Character Traits Thesaurus Entry: Bossy



Definition: A person inclined to dominate, dictate, be pushy and overbearing

Causes:
Wanting to be in charge, a need to be in control, exhibiting taught behavior (domineering parents, siblings, friends, etc), being the eldest child, being the youngest child, a lack of control in other areas of life, an overindulged childhood, insecurity that results in a need to prove something (intelligence, knowledge, being right, capability, etc), self-righteousness (the belief that the character truly is the best person to do the job and therefore is justified in telling others how to do it)

Characters in Literature:
Hermione Granger (Harry Potter), Mr. Dussel (The Diary of Anne Frank)

Positives:
Bossies are usually comfortable leading. While some are incompetent, others are legitimately good at what they do, efficient, always striving to be and do better. They are bold and outspoken. Bossies are often very knowledgeable in specific areas. Some supporting characters will follow and respond to a Bossy if he is strong enough in other areas (effective leadership, clear communicator, ability to produce favorable results, etc). 

Negatives:
Bossies can be demeaning, insulting, and degrading. Many of them lack the social skills necessary to develop meaningful relationships, which is ironic since most of them really want to be in charge of others. Their belief that they can do things better than anyone else often results in impatience, self-righteousness, and snobbery. Bossies have a very difficult time working with other Bossies. The incompetent Bossy is one who uses bossiness to mask his insecurity. He is always fearful that others will discover the truth about him, and will go to great risks to protect his secret.

Common Portrayals:
An overseer who is always hovering and micro-managing, the student waving his hand in the air, speaking out of turn, interrupting, correcting misinformation, offering information that may or may not be relevant simply to show how much they know, sneering, sniffing in disdain, looking down their noses at people, offering advice when it isn't wanted 

Possible Cliches to Avoid:
The overbearing schoolgirl or bossy little sister, the clearly incompetent but dictatorial manager, know-it-alls

Twists on the Traditional Bossy:
  • Instead of having a Bossy character who's bossy just for the sake of meanness, give him a reason to be that way. Show why he is the way he is.
  • Create a Bossy who knows he's incompetent and doesn't hide it, but for whatever reason, still is compelled to push people around
  • Bossies don't have to be know-it-alls! A person might be bossy by constantly finding fault and criticizing others in an effort to change them. Another kind of Bossy could be the expert at  "delegating" (ie, sitting back and giving orders while others do the work). Redefine Bossy to make it work in a new way.
  • Traditionally, villains and mentors are bossy. Try a bossy hero or trickster instead.
Additional characteristics to make your Bossy unique or unusual:
polite, nervous, shy, thoughtful, affectionate, charming, charismatic, non-confrontational

24 comments:

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Thanks for the comprehensive insights. Great job. And then there's another kind of boss, like me. I don't SEEK leadership roles, but somehow, they are eternally thrust upon me. Guess that makes me a reluctant boss.

KarenG said...

Wonder how many of us squirmed just a little as we read this post LOL? I like the suggestion to put a twist on the cliches, well done.

Stefanie J Pristavu said...

Create a Bossy who knows he's incompetent and doesn't hide it, but for whatever reason, still is compelled to push people around - Loved this - this is exactly what I'm trying to pull off in my writing :)

Holly Ruggiero said...

Great first entry!

Jeff King said...

Love it... thx.

The Golden Eagle said...

I like the idea of creating a bossy hero--it's definitely a realistic trait. :P

Great post!

Lisa Gail Green said...

You know, I just LOVE that you are listing possible cliches. Awesome!

M.C. said...

What a great dissection of this trait.

Sharon Tillotson said...

Great post! Love the pix. Thanks...

Michelle Gregory said...

i can already see this series will be great.

Laura Pauling said...

Thanks! Great post. I love that picture you found. And I don't have bossy tendencies at all. NOoo.

Kristen said...

Bossy trickster. Hmmmm...

Becca Puglisi said...

I think this is going to be a fun series. Hopefully it will help us come up with some truly unique characters :)

tracikenworth said...

Thanks for this. I can see a cliche in my own wip. I'll definitely look into changing some character traits.

Leonardo Pisano said...

Great post. As an addition may be the following is interesting for the community here:

I have a bossy antagonist in my conspiracy thriller The Money Pit. I have made him knowledgeable and a true leader. He is irritating, impatient all that. But, and I have come across people like that, he is charming when only one other person is in the room, yet 'the boss' when more than one people are around. Then he doesn't accept criticism, is belittling, etc.

Cat said...

Love this! The best part about this is that I'm NOT bossy... and I know for sure now, 'cause of this definition. Thanks for that!

Kelly Hashway said...

I loved Hermione! I think I secretly like bossy characters though.

Matthew MacNish said...

Very nice, well done Becca. I love that once you two are done with this series, we'll be able to look through different character traits to combine several of them into a single character, which is what people are really like.

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

This is so great, Becca. I know quite a few bossies and they all fit your descriptions. Thank you for this.

Elaine AM Smith said...

Great post! My sister gets bossy when she worries - if she can't be there or she thinks there might be danger again she bosses. It is her over-protective streak coming out ;)

Melissa Lemon said...

I love these posts about character and setting that you are doing. They are insightful and helpful. Thanks!

Angela Ackerman said...

Thanks everyone for the comments and support of our newest Thesaurus collection. We're very excited to be tackling characters for this one. :)

Lynda R Young said...

I love the twists on bossy characters. This is really helpful. Thanks

Rachna Chhabria said...

Thanks for this great post. Its really helpful. Btw... I like Hermione quite a bit ;)

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