24 Traits to Show How Your Characters Think

“People generally agree that each individual is a unique blend of traits that serve to satisfy basic wants and needs according to one’s moral code.” — Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi

by Famend
by Famend

Let’s have fun.

I have Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi’s writer’s resource, The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes. I chose 24 character traits from their list and wrote thoughts the characters with these traits might think.

For each set below, can you match the thoughts of these characters at a party to their traits? My Answers are in the comments.

Match the Thought to the Character Trait

by Openclipartvectors
by Openclipartvectors

 Set 1 






Jerry’s drinking too much. I’ll ask him to take a look at my car’s starter problem. Get him away from the party.




I wish Erin wouldn’t praise me for how much I helped her with the party. Lots of people helped.




I wish John would stop holding the bungee rope or instructing me. I know how to gear up.




Man, it’s crowded. Maybe we can leave early. Oh, oh. Here comes chatty Pam. Time to visit the restroom.




Best make sure guests know exactly what they’re supposed to do in Fictionary. Is that lint on my skirt?




Why is Cassie upset? I’m sure John danced with Candy just to be polite.




Forget the chitchat. Let’s see how many more prizes we can win than Anthony.




Anthony butted in line. Oh well, let him. I’m in no rush.




by bungeeinternational10
by bungeeinternational10

Set 2






Jill has goosebumps. I’ll take her sweater to her. And give her my cherry pie recipe. Her nieces will love it.




I’ll collect cups on the way to the kitchen and store the leftovers in the containers I brought with me.




I must tell Erin she reimbursed me too much for the shrimp.




Great! They have bungee jumping. I’ve never done that before. Let’s do it.




I’ll sing my Fictionary definition. And I’ll add some cha-cha-cha to that dance as boring as a waltz.




We’re here! There’s Jill from my painting class. I want to talk to Cass. Got my ballet flats on. Let’s all dance.




I bet if I ask, Erin will let us sit at the head of the table.




Whichever event Pam wants to do is OK by me.



by EVA8-8008
by EVA8-800

 Set 3






Meatballs would’ve done as well as the shrimp. No wonder Erin and Ralph are in debt.




If Candy comes over, I’ll stay courteous but neutral. I have to fire her, but I’ll do it tactfully on Monday.




Look. Each person takes one minute in the food line. If we play Fictionary for an hour, we can avoid the line.




Who’s that with Lisa? I don’t recall inviting him. Lisa is vulnerable. I’d better join them.




When Tim moves to the food, I’ll happen to cross his path and ask his advice on IRAs. I’ll touch my lips.




Beth wore holey jeans to a party? And why’d Tom try to recruit my son? Upholstery is our family business.




Jerry should live somewhere else if he doesn’t like how things are done in this country.




Let me help Pam with her coat. Great dress Sylvia’s wearing. I’ll tell her. Mark could use one of my jokes.



Thoughts that characters with specific traits would think. Click to tweet.

What might a loyal character think at the party?

Create Great Characters Using What You (or Your Spouse) Know

“You write about what you know, and you write about what you want to know.” —Joyce Maynard

Image courtesy of njaj at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of njaj at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I wrote Calculated Risk mostly from what I, or my husband, know.

With curiosity and research, we can learn much about a subject. But often:

It’s easier to create a character when we know personally his job, personality & interests. Click to tweet.

The main characters in Calculated Risk are good examples. They’re extreme opposites. Nick is an analytical actuary, and Cisney is an expressive marketing rep.






 Why I could make my characters believable in their jobs.



  • As a retired health actuary, I know actuaries evaluate the financial risks of insurance companies.
  • I worked twenty-five years with male actuaries. I observed many are intelligent, analytical, introverted, private, poor communicators, and a bit weird.
  • My husband, John, is a retired actuary. I know he’s smart, wants to be right, and is decisive.


  • I worked with marketing reps. They tend to be expressive and friendly.
  • I observed marketing reps with clients. In their desire to please clients, they sometimes agree to things they’re unsure they can deliver.
  • I saw how actuaries and marketing reps get along.
Image courtesy of kasahasa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of kasahasa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


  • While many actuaries are poor communicators, many marketing reps only think they’re good communicators. I played up this observation between Cisney and Nick.
  • I recalled actuaries’ and marketing reps’ odd behaviors and wrote similar incidences.

These were fodder for humor.

Why I could make Nick and Cisney believable in their personalities.


  • One personality test labeled me an expressive analytical. An oxymoron. Very distracting for me. I knew these traits would be distracting for Nick and Cisney. So I coined, opposites distract.
  • As an expressive analytical, I could get inside Nick’s analytical mind and into Cisney’s expressive nature.
  • Plus, analytical introvert John was the role model for Nick.


  • Nick dislikes his mom relating stories or people asking questions about his private life. Cisney eats up drawing answers from him and hearing stories about him.
  • An actuary at work often thought so long, I’d almost burst to fill the silence. His eventual answers were excellent. Nick has long but productive thinking moments that drive Cisney crazy.
  • As an expressive, I sometimes speak before I think. This was perfect for Cisney, causing her problems with Nick.
  • Sticky notes pepper my office. Cisney lives by them. This quirk amuses Nick.



Why I could make Nick and Cisney believable in their interests.


  • John listens to 70s tunes. He likes chess and thinking games.
  • Besides charts and numbers, I love to be creative and make people laugh.
  • I’ve studied the Bible for years.
Image courtesy of Supertrooper at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Supertrooper at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


  • Cisney calls Nick’s 70s music doo-wap songs. He’d like to correct her that “doo-wap” is a 50’s or 60’s term.
  • Cisney prefers classical music. On Nck’s family’s grand piano, she plays “Flight of the Bumble Bee,” the piece my German flute teacher flaunted.
  • After she’s jilted, Nick’s biblical knowledge gives Cisney a new perspective.
  • Cisney likes eliciting laughs from Nick to enjoy his dimple.
  • The chess game John helped me write prods Cisney to see Nick in a new way. You’ll have to read Calculated Risk to find out how.

Calculated Risk by Zoe M. McCarthy

How have you used what you KNOW in creating characters?