Character Trait Entry: Courage

Definition:  mental or moral resilience to face opposition, danger or difficulties, despite one's own fear

Causes: A desire to honor family or role model heroes by living up to their moral strength and/or sacrifice; a belief that one must not let fear stand in the way of what is right; a need to protect others from harm or suffering; a very strong moral code; the belief that one person can make a difference and that the future is determined by one's own actions.

Characters in Literature: Harry Potter (Harry Potter); Hans Hubermann (The Book Thief); Frodo (Lord of the Rings); Willow (Willow)

Positives: Courageous characters will make up for what is lacking in any circumstance they deem necessary. After reflection or a moral assessment, they will step up in a situation, no matter the odds, because they know inside it is the right thing to do. People who show courage have a core of inner strength, a strong moral compass and put the welfare of others first when it counts most. They are willing to stand up for their beliefs regardless of risk. They feel fear, but have mastered it, and do not allow it to motivate their choices or decisions. Characters who are courageous lead by example, even if they are unsuited to a task, or realize a great deal of work lies ahead. Others are inspired by courage and often strive to honor it by showing courage themselves.

Negatives: Courage, while commendable, is not always smart. This type of character cannot always see beyond the immediate situation to the long term impacts of a choice or action. Sometimes wisdom is overridden by the need to stop something from happening, and from the desire to act. Courageous people can be impulsive and react emotionally to what's happening around them when pausing to think of the best course of action is what is really needed. 

Common Portrayals: Military soldiers, police, fire and rescue first responders, political activists; court case witnesses to crime

Cliches to Avoid: the hero who is the complete package--strength, courage, intelligent, good looks, popular, etc.; having a minor character be the courageous yet wasteful sacrifice as a plot device to show the strength of the villain

Twists on the Traditional Courageous:  
  •  Characters with courage draw admiration, because somewhere deep inside, we want to believe we too would show the same courage and fortitude when faced with a similar choice or situation. Shake things up by giving your hero an unlikable flaw that lessens his appeal, making him more realistic.
  • Warrior and courage are not synonymous. Internal strength comes in all all shapes and sizes, so consider making your character someone who is not the best choice for what is ahead.
  • Courage is to act despite fear, but every character has a breaking point. What's your character's, and how can they move past it to succeed?

Conflicting Characteristics to Make your Courageous Unique or More Interesting: Naive; Proper; Shy; Impulsive; Eccentric; Worry Wart

**Special Note! Today the gracious Lindsey and Lindsey of After The Ending are hosting us at their blog to give one of our older posts a bit of love. Aren't they awesome? Please stop in and say hello!


Lena said...

The positives of courage are inspiring. Thank you for this post, for it has instilled a sense of courage in me.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great tips. Thanks for sharing them. I'm working on a courageous character but don't want to make him too good.

Carrie Butler said...

Thanks for the tips, ladies! My next book is about courage. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Yay for Frodo & Harry! :)

Love the point about courageous folks not having everything going for them - that would be downright dull! :)

Fiona Ingram said...

Great advice! Thanks for the tip. It's good to make your hero 'human' to avoid readers becoming bored with Captain Awesome.

Traci Kenworth said...

Great choice for a picture!!

Leslie Rose said...

Frodo and Sam are the poster boys for courage. I think of the Pevensie children in the Chronicles of Narnia as courageous souls as well.

Bonnee Crawford said...

Hooray for Frodo!!! :D


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