Character Trait Entry: Just

Definition: believing in or pursuing what is morally right or good

Causes: a religious upbringing that focuses on right vs wrong; growing up in an environment where fairness was emphasized; fear of doing wrong or being perceived as doing wrong; fear of punishment; a self-righteous attitude; wanting to be "better" than others; wanting to be seen as better than others

Characters in Literature & Pop Culture: Robin Hood, Dumbledore, Reverend Mr. John Williams (The Scarlet Letter)

Positives:  Just people long for things to be made right. They rail against injustice and are quick to stand up for the oppressed. They aren't afraid to try and right wrongs, even when their beliefs bring them into conflict with powerful or influential people. Because their beliefs are constantly being challenged by those in opposition, just characters are usually well-spoken and are able to intelligently defend their point of view.

Negatives: It's easy for just characters to be more concerned with right/wrong than they are with people. They tend to see things in black and white and can easily slip into stereotypical or judgmental thinking. Taken to an extreme, the just character lacks empathy and mercy, and can become vigilante in their desire for justice. They can also become so devoted to their opinions that they're unable to see or admit when they're in the wrong

Common Portrayals: religious figures, judges, social activists

Clichés to Avoid: the self-righteous, hypocritical priest or pastor; the just character who bravely stands alone in his quest to right a wrong

Twists on the Traditional Just Character:  
  • Just characters are usually bold and confrontational. How about a meek or wallflower-type person who is compelled to stand up for what's right?
  • People with a strong sense of right and wrong are often firmly convinced of their own rightness. It would be refreshing to see a just character who takes a stand on something, but struggles with his own convictions on the subject.
  • The self-righteous just character has been done to death. There are so many other faults and flaws  that can realistically be applied. Break the cliché and come up with a new pairing of strength with weakness.
Conflicting Characteristics to Make your Just Character Unique or More Interesting: timid, coarse, depressed, grouchy, popular, unintelligent


Janet Johnson said...

Great entry! Another character in pop culture is Javert from Les Miserables. :)

cleemckenzie said...

Janet has added a great character to your list. I love it when characters who are interested in justice are also flawed and perhaps a bit unjust themselves. Kind of like they're real people, right?

Thanks for the post on characters.

Becca Puglisi said...

Ack! Javert is PERFECT!

Tracy Campbell said...

Ooo! I love this post. My main character is a "just" person, and you gave me a brilliant idea, turn her into "a meek or wallflower-type person who is compelled to stand up for what's right?" She was standing up for what's right, but not in the "right" way. Now she will. Love it!

Traci Kenworth said...

Good one!!

Kate O'Reilley said...

Great post. I like the idea of thinking outside the box. You raised some very helpful points and I thank you.

Jack Dowden said...

Man, I love this stuff. Thank you.


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