Character Thesaurus Entry: Visionary

Definition: having unusual foresight and ingenuity

Causes:
 having experienced success in the past, the mindset that each failure is but a stepping stone to future successes, growing up in an environment that fosters free thinking and problem solving, being surrounded and influenced by other big thinkers, a persistent dissatisfaction with the status quo

Characters from Literature and History: Dr. Frankenstein, Merlin, Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo da Vinci

Positives: Visionaries see the world through a lens of possibility. Where others see problems, they see solutions. They are confident, usually of high intelligence, and bold. Visionaries are so secure in their vision of what can be that they are not easily swayed by criticism and what others may think. They are incredible problem solvers and strong under pressure. Visionaries are responsible for much of the positive (and negative) change that happens in the world.

Negatives: Having a vision often means standing alone; this means that many visionaries live lives of isolation. The more radical their ideas, the more likely they are to be vilified rather than praised by others. While visionaries may clearly see what can be, they often lack the practical understanding of how to reach the goal. Their impracticality can frustrate those around them and undermine the visionary's ability to succeed. Due to their high intelligence, visionaries can also come across as condescending, impatient, and socially awkward. Because of their inability to accept the status quo, visionaries often find themselves opposed by powerful enemies.

Common Portrayals: scientists, inventors, magicians, geniuses, world leaders, artists

Cliches to Avoid: the egomaniacal crazy visionary bent on taking over the world; the eccentric but lovable magician or scientist; the passionate inventor who creates something that changes the world but sacrifices his family and values to do so

Twists on the traditional Visionary: 

  • Visionaries usually envision something that is beneficial or helpful. But what if their goal is ambiguous--good for some, detrimental to others?
  • We like to remember the "good" visionaries, but many horrible ideas and events were also birthed by those with incredible foresight and boldness. Instead of the purely evil visionary who sees nothing wrong with his pursuit, conflict your villain. Show him struggling with right and wrong just like the good guys do.
  • Complicate things for your solitary visionary. Out of necessity, give him a partner.


Conflicting characteristics to make your Visionary unique or more interesting: timid, ignorant, anxious, pessimistic, selfish

14 comments:

Miranda Hardy said...

Great character trait. Ben Franklin is my all time favorite visionary.

Rebecca Kiel said...

Visionary. What a great characteristic.

Angela Ackerman said...

Wow...great job with this one, Becca! I see so many possibilities for this characteristic.

I think it adds well to villains because of the ego component...many visionaries feel their vision is 'best for all' which often can lead to 'taking control for the good of all' out of a twisted sense of belief in what is needed. this can
lead to some very dark places (Hitler for example).

Inspector Saahab said...

that's the word. and Merlin, i am so into it :)

nice sharing :)
very well elaboration

tracikenworth said...

Wow, my thoughts exactly, Angela (with your comment about Hitler, I'm sure he thought of himself this way). Great post, Becca!! It is a scary idea to explore, "someone who thinks they know best for us."

Gail Shepherd said...

Gawd, you guys always hit me with at least one cliche I can spot in my own writing. Thank you! (I guess). Your tips for complicating character traits are just wonderful.

Michelle Gregory said...

there's an award for you at my blog.

Leslie Rose said...

I never would have listed visionary in a trait list. This is an eye opener. Teaching 5th grade allows me to spend a lot of time with ole Ben F. His vision re-amazes me year after year as I share it. Little Tommy Jefferson was no slouch in that area either.

Jeanne said...

I love your 'twists' on stereotypes. Thank you for challenging us all to think outside the standard.

Jayrod Garrett said...

This is a great way to think of how to develop new characters both good and bad! Thanks so much. It makes me want a visionary character now.

Christina Farley said...

This is a great series. I love it. You guys are always bringing us fresh new ideas.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Great insights. Dare I say ... you're a bit of a visionary yourself!

Becca Puglisi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Becca Puglisi said...

Wow, thanks Susan! This was a fun one to write. I'm always amazed at how many of these qualities can be both negative and positive.

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