Character Trait Entry: Kind

Definition:  the mindset of giving; inclination to offer help and lift another's spirit

Causes: Growing up in a loving home; having a strong sense of kinship with others; being the recipient of kindness; a feeling of wellness derived from giving; an appreciation and connectedness with the world and living things in it; having one's life shaped a moment of kindness at a crucial time in one's past

Characters in Literature: Diana Barry (Anne of Green Gables); Mr. & Mrs. Weasley (Harry Potter); Peeta (The Hunger Games); Juliette & Adam (Shatter Me)

Positives: When in a safe environment, Kind characters are genuine and forthright, and their giving nature and positive attitude draws people in. Observant and often great listeners, Kindlies type uses their intuitive sense and provides an uplifting word or act when another needs it most. Most kindhearted people see it as their duty to help when and where they can, even when it requires a sacrifice of some sort.

Negatives:  Kindlies know how to bestow acts of generosity, but often grow flustered or overly humble when kindness is returned to them. Because of their giving nature, their first instinct is to refuse the gift because they do not want to be a burden, or tell the other person it wasn't necessary. If they accept it, they feel compelled to 'repay' the kindness, which can leave the giver feeling less satisfied. They also commonly refuse help or don't let others know when they need it, denying others the chance to participate in kindness themselves and get the feel-good  rush that comes from giving. Sometimes a Kindly's act or gift has a sacrifice component attached to it, which can make the recipient feel guilty about taking it.

Common Portrayals: Grandparents, the elderly, nurses and heath care personnel, counselors, mothers, women

Cliches to Avoid:  The cookie-baking grandmother; kindness paired with 'demure & submissive'

Twists on the Traditional Kindly:
  • Kindness is a very likable trait, especially when it belongs to a male. Show us more kind, REALISTIC male characters (but don't go overboard as masculinity must always factor in). 
  • The most powerful kindness comes when the person giving it has every right and reason not to be kind. This requires strong characterization & character motivation to make it work, but when it does? Magic.
  • Kindness is often paired with 'soft' positive traits that are in a similar range (friendliness, generosity, caring, etc). What better way for kindness to stand out than by pulling some darker or discordant traits (such as the ones listed below?)
 Conflicting Characteristics to Make your Kindly Unique or More Interesting: Impulsive, Dishonest; Independent; Ambitious; Eccentric; Reckless; Wounded

    20 comments:

    Natalie Aguirre said...

    Great tips on showing a kind character. I especially like the twists and other unusual characteristics to pair it with. Thanks for the tips.

    shelly said...

    Thank you for posting this. Also, I just got The Emotion Thesaurus in the mail. Yay!

    Susanne Drazic said...

    Great post!

    I've got a cookie-baking grandmother in one of my stories. Since that is a cliche, I guess I better rethink that one.

    Catherine A. Winn said...

    Another great post that helps this writer tremendously!

    N. R. Williams said...

    An excellent definition and one all writers should consider in character building.
    Nancy

    Becca Puglisi said...

    Kindness is hard because kind people are so often portrayed as weak or boring. These are great tips for making this trait work :).

    Kelly Polark said...

    I agree with Becca. I love seeing kindness, but it needs to be written so it seen as a weakness or not exciting.
    Great post!!! You are too kind to share your tips!

    Sophia said...

    I can't help raising an eyebrow at this line:

    "Kindness is a very likable trait, especially when it belongs to a male. Show us more kind, REALISTIC male characters (but don't go overboard as masculinity must always factor in)."

    So, female characters are just expected to be kind? And too much kindness conflicts with masculinity?

    And why must masculinity always factor in? It seems rather strange that we can write about aliens and dragons, but an unusually 'feminine' male character is pushing the limits of what is appropriate, particularly when people who defy gender norms actual exist in the real world.

    Bish Denham said...

    I feel a kinder gentler male character working his way into a story...

    Angela Ackerman said...

    Sophia,

    Thanks so much for your outlook here. First, I'm not quite sure how you inferred I meant that all females are supposed to be kind--I think we've all seen enough female characters in books and film (heck, in real life) to know this isn't true, so I can't really address that part of your comment. But for the rest, I believe you have made the assumption that I believe kindness is a female trait. I do not think this--it's a human trait shared by both sexes. :)

    What I'm pointing out here is that males are often influenced by male role models and are aware of society's view of masculinity. Therefore, how they show kindness will often factor this in. That all. :)

    Hope this clears up what I meant! This isn't about men being macho, or that 'real men don't X'. It's simply acknowledging that men and women think and act differently. :)

    Happy writing!

    Angela

    Angela Ackerman said...

    Shelly, I hope you are super happy with the book. Thanks everyone for the great comments! :)

    FunTó said...

    Thanks for this Angela! Quite uselful. I actually recently read a book with the cookie-baking grandmother cliché and surprisingly enough it worked well. And a huge part of the novel was focused on the grandmother yet the author managed to pull it off.

    Leslie S. Rose said...

    I go straight to Melanie Wilkes in Gone With the Wind for kind. I wanted to grow up and be just like her, sadly I'm more like Scarlett. Oops.

    Elise Shedd said...

    This was great post on adding more dimension and depth to the kind characters in one's story. Kindness is just a quality in people but that doesn't mean that person can't have issues, problems or challenges. Books that are written today need to have characters that reflect a real person with real qualities. A kind person with no flaws or hangups wouldn't be realistic to the reader to relate to unless its a fairytale.

    nobu said...

    I want to learn writing and I find your post very helpful. I am very glad that I found you.

    cleemckenzie said...

    I'm drawn to kind characters, but it's good to see their not so kind side, too. Characters without flaws are terribly flat. I like your "Conflicting" approach here. Very clear and helpful.

    Angela Ackerman said...

    Hi FunTo--YOu hit the nail on the head--a grandmother who bakes cookies is fine as long as her character had depth. If her cookie baking is but one thing about her, great. But if the author relies only on this to characterize her, then she becomes flat.

    Elise and Lee, I absolutely agree. Pulling in multiple traits, especially those that are often NOT paired together creates complexity and the result is a well rounded and fascinating character!

    Thanks everyone for the comments! Happy writing!

    Sharon K. Mayhew said...

    Great tips on kindness. One thing I enjoy when I am reading is a character that appears to be rough and gruff, but slowly a kind streak sneaks out of them.

    Traci Kenworth said...

    An unusual trait to put to story use, but a blessing to us all in real life. I mean unusual in that I have seen it done to death in kindly grandparent role. I like your examples to get away from that.

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