Character Trait: Serious

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet by C. E. Brock (1895)

Definition: having a thoughtful or subdued manner

Causes: being more inclined to internal thought than external expression; an underdeveloped sense of humor; a strong sense of duty to others; being forced to grow up too early and become responsible at an early age; the belief that any kind of fun is vanity; a compulsion to strictly adhere to the rules; the need to always be on one's guard

Characters in LiteratureMr. Darcy, Peter Hatcher (Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing), Michael Corleone (The Godfather), Katniss Everdeen

Positives: Serious characters are usually very dependable. You can count on them to do what they say they'll do, and you can ask them to take care of jobs others may be unwilling to do. Because serious characters are often highly introspective, they can be very intelligent or have incredible knowledge about specific subjects. This can be a very helpful resource for the hero.

Negatives: Because they don't joke around or take part in frivolous activities, serious characters can be pretty boring. Their lack of interest in popular culture can make them seem rather out-of-it, and their unusual social responses may make others feel awkward. Humor is highly valued in our society, so those who don't appreciate it can be misunderstood and mis-labeled as condescending, shy, stuck-up, or socially backward.

Common Portrayals: cyborgs, robots, and other non-humans; CEOs; mathematicians and scientists; religious characters

Cliches to Avoid the teenager/young adult forced to care for younger siblings and put his own life on hold; the cruel, hyper-religious person who condemns others for their frivolous choices; the serious character who's incapable of getting the simplest joke

Twists on the Traditional Serious Character:  

  • Serious characters are so often BORING. Give them additional traits to make them interesting or empathetic (see below)
  • The archetypal sidekick is almost always comedian to the main character's straight man. Switch it up and create a serious sidekick and see what humor can come from that situation.
  • Give your serious character a new reason for being that way. Maybe it's her way of rebelling against society or expressing individuality. Whatever the reason, make sure it makes sense and you lay the foundation so it's believable to the reader.

Conflicting Characteristics to Make your Serious Character Unique or More Interesting: adventurous, loving, charming, hyper, impulsive, wicked, talented


Traci Kenworth said...

Good one!!

tracycampbellwriter said...

I just love these posts.

Kathrese McKee said...

The artwork of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet took me back to the first time I read Pride and Prejudice. Poor Darcy--so serious and misunderstood.

I love your book, BTW. I bought it for my Kindle a few weeks ago, and I often have The Emotion Thesaurus open on my desktop in the Amazon app as I write. Great resource.

Becca Puglisi said...

Thanks Traci and Tracy! And Kathrese, I'm so glad you're enjoying The Emotion Thesaurus. We're always so excited to hear that the people who buy it are happy with it.

Karen Lange said...

Wonderful, as always! Love your examples of characters. Happy weekend! :)

tracycampbellwriter said...

Again, you're very welcome!
Happy to encourage a fellow writer.

Jemi Fraser said...

There are some great combinations for treating a serious character here - awesome! :)


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