Character Trait Entry: Determined

Definition: a firm resolve; unwavering; focused

Causes: Strong focus and ability to make decisions; having a set goal, objective or desire that is personal and important; being highly committed to an idea or belief

Characters in Literature: Doug (Okay For Now); Katniss (The Hunger Games); Perrin (The Wheel of Time)

Positives: The determined character has a state of mind that leads to perseverance, which will allow them to achieve their long term goals. They are able to set emotion aside, analyze a situation or action and weigh whether it brings them closer to their goal. Determined people can make decisions and create realistic goals and objectives, and work toward them step by step. They play to their strengths and will accept help if it is required. Determined individuals can set ego aside and work hard as required. They have strong focus, and can overcome doubt or insecurities which might sway their mindset.

Negatives:  Determined characters can have narrow focus and sometimes not see (or care) about how their actions affect others. People may feel shut out or excluded, and relationships can suffer, especially if other parties do not understand or appreciate the high level of dedication to a task. While a determined character is focused on a goal, they may miss other important events that can cause friction or conflict, and these events may eventually build up to a point where they sabotage efforts of obtaining that goal.

Common Portrayals: Athletes, Competitors, Law Enforcers & Military, Leaders; Serial Killers; Stalkers; Paparazzi

Cliches to Avoid:   The athlete or competitor who will win at all costs and leave behind a body count to do it; the ex cop with a vendetta; the military Rambo type who was wronged and is determined to bring his government down; the character who wants something outlandish and who is not suited for the task, yet manages to achieve it through an incredible amount of fortunate coincidences and luck.

Twists on the Traditional Determined: 
  •  The darker cousin of determination is obsession. It's easy to show obsession leading to a person's undoing, so instead, show us a hero who buries himself in it, but then realizes what is happening and pulls himself out in time. 
  • With villains, determination is intrinsic and so readers take it as a matter of course. This means some authors skim on defining WHY the villain is determined, so if you write this trait, don't skimp! The WHY is what creates empathy, so show us the cause, the need, that lies behind striving to obtain their goal.
  • Determination can never be enough. Challenge your character morally, and add conflict that makes them question their choice and mindset. Self-doubt can be a powerful way to define determination.
 Conflicting Characteristics to Make your Determined Unique or More Interesting: Witty, Impulsive, Sensitive, Clever, Worry-wart, Eccentric, Fearless

**HEADS UP!** The wonderful ladies at WOW (Women On Writing) have reviewed The Emotion Thesaurus & are offering a giveaway of the book (Print or Digital, winner's choice!). So, head on over and try you luck, and maybe score this resource for yourself or a friend!


shelly said...

Excellent post. Thank you for sharing.

Heard about you guys via PK Hero's blog.


Now following.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Excellent post, as always. I was (ahem) determined to pop in to tell you guys how very much I love your book. It's a great reference, and ya know what? You have more than enough material on this blog to fuel a few more books. (hint, hint) And I hope you do just that.

Heather said...

Oooo, I like the idea of the dark side of determination being obsession. Just mentioning that sparked an idea...

Becca Puglisi said...

Great job, Angela. Have to bump Okay For Now to the top of my TBR list. :)

Jack Dowden said...

This is awesome. Thank you very much.

Angela Ackerman said...

Hi Shelly--great to see you here!

Susan, you are too kind--thank you! And yes, the response to the Emotion Thesaurus has been strong enough that Becca and I will be releasing more books! Thanks so much for your support!

Heather, I love it when I read something and BAM, an idea slaps me right upside the head! Woot! That's awesome.

Becca you HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK. Yes, yes, yes. Doug is a character you won't forget. :)

Traci Kenworth said...

A trait that could cause problems if left alone. Being focused on one thing could lead to all sorts of trouble. Good one.

Susanne Drazic said...

Great post, as always! I'm adding OKAY FOR NOW to my TBR book list.

Dennis Murphy said...

Hi and Thank You. I purchased, read, and recommend your book Emotion Thesaurus. Been struggling for a while now to figure out exactly what it means to Show not Tell. Your article in the book is the best I've found. I am recommending your book in my blog at

DJ Murphy

John said...

This article is really worth reading, it has too much details in it and yet it is so simple to understand, Thanks for sharing the picture it has great detail in it and i really appreciate your true artistic work!

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Leslie S. Rose said...

I'm reading WHERE IT BEGAN by Ann Stampler right now and I love the way her MC Gabby is determined to recover her fragmented memory to explain her current predicament.


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