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Writer's Guide to Character Traits: Includes Profiles of Human Behaviors and Personality Types
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Writer's Guide to Character Traits: Includes Profiles of Human Behaviors and Personality Types

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  695 ratings  ·  62 reviews
From Sex to Schizophrenia: Everything You Need to Develop Your Characters! What makes a person commit a white-collar crime? Who is a likely candidate to join a cult? Why do children have imaginary friends? How does birth order affect whether or not a person gets married? When does mind over matter become a crippling problem?

"Writer's Guide to Character Traits, 2nd edition"
Paperback, 378 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by Writer's Digest Books (first published 1999)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,030)
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Feb 18, 2013 Rachel marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Stereotypes exist for a reason; usually, because there's an element of truth to them. With The Writer's Guide to Character Traits, psychologist-professor Linda Edelstein has created a kind of Psych 101 for Writers. Her goal is a "friendly reference" for writers who want "to create believable characters and need accurate information about personality and behavior." Sure, disparage it if you like. But wouldn't you like to know which of your protagonist's offspring is most predisposed to warming up ...more
Mar 27, 2008 Theodora rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who love canned characters
Recommended to Theodora by: on the shelf at the writers' colony
Shelves: books08, writing
This book really stunk.
Aug 16, 2010 Josette marked it as to-read
I've read only portions of this book, but it's not exactly the type of book you can read cover-to-cover. This book is good as a reference tool for writers, because it lists personality traits and disorders that various classifications of people have, which can help writers make their characters more believable. So far I've been disappointed with the amount of information the author lists. I'm sure there's only so much a journeyed psychiatrist can include in a book that covers character traits of ...more
Kelly H. (Maybedog)
This was a good idea but completely useless. Nothing went into enough depth to be useful, but the biggest problem is that although it was written in 1999, most of the sources used were already out of date and obsolete then. She uses Masters & Johnson from the 60's for information about homsexuality. Info about BDSM comes from a book written in 1964 when it was still considered a bizarre thing only freaks did. Seriously? Research as shown that as many as 70% of women claim to participate in B ...more
Aug 02, 2012 Hunter rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fiction writers
Shelves: writing
Good reference tool for creating more indepth characters, giving the writer the ability to think about the character's childhood influences and personality traits which define their actions and reactions today. Bullet-pointed and indexed to help with selection.

Naturally, there could be 200, 300 maybe 500% more careers, traits or disorders that could have been listed here, but these are good starter subjects for pointing you to where you may like to explore.

My copy was borrowed from the local l
This book is more of a quick reference or jumping off point than an in-depth look. There's many lists and charts which make looking up aspects of a condition or disorder easy. Childhood and adolescence are covered as well as adulthood. In addition to various disorders and conditions the book covers group dynamics as well as body language and nonverbal cues. These sections make handy cheat sheets for any writer.

While many conditions and disorders are covered, none are covered in depth. However th
This book is perfect for any writer, and is by far the best character reference book I have stumbled upon. Inside are detailed chapters of all types of character traits plus numerous writing exercises that will help get into the mind of said character. I've never been so engrossed! A definite read for anyone who wants to create well rounded, eccentric characters instead of cardboard cutouts.
Michael Burton
A great reference for writers looking to study personality traits. For those that complain about "Canned Characters" I say you didn't get the point of this book at all--stereotypes exist for a reason, and you, as the writer, choose whether to stick to a stereotype, break it completely, or find the gray area in between (which is probably the most interesting way to go). This book helps you identify the types of people and backgrounds that lead to certain traits so you can understand what you are ...more
April Brown
Several stereotypes, not all correct.

A few good points in some places.

Looking forward to the publication of The BookShelf Muse.
Tom Bane
Invaluable book for writers, I'll write a full review later...
This book can help people figure out what they ought to research next in other books. And then people should find better books and references, because this is merely a guide. I see no issue in marking down a path of research if this is used like a roadmap. I give credit to books which leave you thinking, but aside from doing that, it relies too much on stereotypes, and it makes some outlandish claims.

I was particularly rankled with chapter six above anything else. Namely:

"Sadomasochistic sex i
Kathy Davie
Edelstein calls this "a crash course in psychology for writers with information about personality and behavior to create believable and authentic characters".

My Take
I liked the differentiation Edelstein offers between character and traits. A good difference to keep in mind when creating your character while reminding the reader, er, I mean, the writer---you, that these groupings are not set in stone.

"Dorothy Parker was right: 'People are more fun than anybody.'"

While Edelstein remembers once in
This book is a decent starting point for further research into different things...but some of the things are severely outdated ("multiple personality disorder" hasn't been used to refer to dissociative identity disorder for years now; it's well known that parenting style has nothing to do with what orientation your kid will have), and some of the sources are from the 50s and 60s--surely psychological protocols and diagnostic criteria has changed since then...

It does the job of providing a jumpin
This book contains a lot of lists, which shouldn't be a huge surprise (it's about what kinds of traits go with different kinds of people). It's not too hard to read straight through, but it really is designed primarily as a reference for those who want to write characters. I suspect it would make a pretty good idea generator for making an author fill in a bit more backstory for their characters, and should result in those characters being more realistic (and interesting).

The author is a therapis
I really enjoyed reading this book. I am interested in psychology and why humans behave the way that they do, and this book was a fascinating read....and it had writing prompts too! A great place for ideas on how to make your character unique and to find out his or her motivations from a psychological standpoint. Loved it!
Paul Raymer
Dec 28, 2014 Paul Raymer rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Background writer's reference
Shelves: books-on-writing
This book resides on my reference shelf, not read cover to cover, but useful in pulling highlights together particularly on issues like the development of a team psychology and a turn of events.
Apr 03, 2012 Bethanie rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Writers beginning their research

For a little perspective, this book is basically a collection of human behavior traits, symptoms of mental disorders, and personality types of certain individuals. Though helpful when you're trying to get an idea of how a character might act (For example, if you're writing a teenaged arsonist, it's helpful to get an idea of what would motivate them) but is it a one stop shop for human psychology? No. It's basically a collection of stereotypes. Use it, if you must, to get a better perspectiv
Andi Dobek
This book is an absolute MUST HAVE for any serious writer. The author gives you details about every type of person and how they will act based on different environmental or biological factors, from how a middle child in a family will behave (with or without his parents divorced) to a person who is a serial killer, to how a rape victim may or may not cope...pretty soon you will realize, everyone in life is a character in some form or another, and there really is no such thing as "normal". This bo ...more
Marcia Martins
It's help to develop your character but it's not enough.
Triv S.
Really helpful guide and resource!
I found this book difficult to use. I wanted to find traits for, say, a salesman. I've done sales so I have a general idea, but wanted a thorough discussion. The discussion is brief (about 11 bullets) and included as one of 42 careers the author discusses. No career for 'military', 'researcher', 'teenager' or 'home maker'--all careers of people in my upcoming novels.

I recognize this may be an expectation I placed on the book which was never the author's intent to fulfill. I share it so no one e
Human nature is a tricky thing. But this gets your basic Psychology 101 book and condenses it down to bullet points and easily understood concepts. I think this book is a fantastic start to any character and the most important part, does NOT forget to include children, which I think can be ignored. Want to know how a 2 year old might deal with divorce? They have common habits for all stages of childhood. Fabulous book. Fabulous.
The book pools together some interesting psychological information about people, including problems they have, the behaviour caused by those problems, and how their relationships with those problems tend to evolve over time. I found the last two chapters on group interaction and physical appearance/body language the most useful. I expect that I will be consulting the book regularly while I'm writing.
A fantastic book. I read about 95% of it cover to cover even though it's not really intended to be done like that. It definitely helped me flesh out two characters in two different stories so far. I would recommend this book for anyone that wants to add depth to characters that they are working on. If you're a writer, keeping this book around most definitely cannot hurt.
Soul Rhallin
I love so much about this book. For anyone looking to ease the character creation process - or, make their characters more three-dimensional - this book is a fantastic resource.

Indeed, my singular complaint about this book, is that the synopses left me hungry for more. But, isn't that what great books do? (Yes, but I still frown on it from a reference book.)

Suzie Quint
At almost 400 pages (trade paperback sized), this book looks really promising, but it bites off more than it can chew, trying to be all things to all people. Four hundred pages isn't enough for that.

Read the complete review at
Laura Oliva

I'd call this book a good jumping-off point. It gives a decent overview of a wide variety of character traits for different kinds and groups of people, but can be a little light on the details.

Use this book to figure out what you want to research further. For more in-depth information, look elsewhere.
This would be a great book if I was a writer. Not only does it give you ideas to use as part of a written characters trait, but what to use to describe the character even further. But since I'm not a writer, I did enjoy paging through it, looking for hints of what to look for when reading a book.
Rachel Blom
Interesting book and helpful at points, though not quite as practical as I had expected. I keep grabbing it during writing to make my characters consistent and 'logical' but I can't always find what I'm looking for. Still, it's useful as a reference for character development.
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