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The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Flaws

(Writers Helping Writers Series #2)

4.58  ·  Rating details ·  1,431 ratings  ·  114 reviews
Crafting likable, interesting characters is a balancing act, and finding that perfect mix of strengths and weaknesses can be difficult. But the task has become easier thanks to The Negative Trait Thesaurus.

Through its flaw-centric exploration of character arc, motivation, emotional wounds, and basic needs, writers will learn which flaws make the most sense for their heroe
Paperback, 263 pages
Published October 21st 2013 by JADD Publishing (first published October 13th 2013)
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Jan 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is definitely one of the most helpful writing guides I've come across in quite sometime. Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi did a remarkable job of presenting a narrative on how to weave character flaws within a story and what positive and negative traits each of those respective flaws could have in shaping the character. It not only delves into how critical presenting flaws within a story are for a character, but it also explains how it can go very wrong if the execution/presentation of the ...more
K.M. Weiland
Oct 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I turn to Ackerman and Puglisi's Emotion Thesaurus regularly when needing inspiration for character reactions and action beats. Their new additions to the series are shaping up to be just as valuable, if not more so. In the introductory material to this volume, they state that they view this book as a "brainstorming tool." This is spot-on.

As they explain in their insightful opening chapters, character flaws drive character arcs. Without a solid understanding of what major problem is at the crux
Leah Good
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, writing
Before the actual "thesaurus" part of the book begins, the author spends some time discussing how to encorporate character flaws into your writing and why they're important to creating believable characters. I found some of the tips to be really thought provoking and revealing in relation to the characters I'm working with.

The thesaurus part was interesting to look through and should be helpful once I identify what my characters main flaw is.
Nov 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All fiction writers
I love Angela and Becca’s The Emotion Thesaurus, so I had high hopes for their new Trait books but didn't see how they could live up to the ET. I’m happy to say I was wrong. These two additions are fantastic resources for writers.

The Negative Trait Thesaurus opens with insights on how flaws make our characters believable and create the necessary journey and conflict for our characters' arcs. Additional tips help with making non-cardboard cutout villains and avoiding other issues when designing o
Julie Musil
Oct 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Just like the Emotion Thesaurus, the Negative Trait Thesaurus is a must read for writers. One of the areas I loved most was choosing a negative character trait, then matching it with a trait in another character that would offer natural conflict. Reading through these traits has helped me dig deeper and create flawed--but real--characters.
Apr 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Excellent reference book for writers. It helped me sort out a very serious case of writer's block. The tips on how to weave flaws into the characters, what to look out for to make sure that your flawed character doesn't turn into someone completely unlikeable and many others. It's a must-have in any writer's arsenal of reference books.
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book for authors.
Jul 13, 2016 rated it liked it
I read this along with its companion book, The Positive Trait Thesaurus. Both were insightful as far as giving examples in literature and film of the types of characters one can create. However, I don't know how practical it is to start off the creation of characters by pouring a list of traits into them. It's too paint-by-numbers.

Characters usually seem to evolve organically, and are more of an end result achieved when a character's voice, need, and arc meet a sort of kismet -- the character f
Joshua Therrien
Sep 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Joshua by: C.G. Fewston
This book, and it's two mates, "Emotion Thesaurus", and "Positive Trait Thesaurus," also written by Ackerman, are extremely helpful to anyone whom wants to be a writer. It's pretty easy to create flat, boring characters. This book helps writers craft rounded, interesting ones instead. The first part of the book contains insights on human nature and the creation of flawed characters, while the other 90% contains a thesaurus of character flaws. I recommend it to everyone. My only problem with the ...more
Horse Cryptid
Dec 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book for writers who need help brainstorming ideas for conflict and character flaws. I can't wait to really buckle down and use this for my WIPs. :)

Includes: writing advice from the authors, a list of flaws (how they tend to develop; associated behaviors, thoughts, and emotions; positive and negative aspects of flaws; examples from film; ways to overcome the flaw; and traits in other characters that could cause conflict), Needs and Lies List, Reverse Backstory Tool, and Cha
Laura Kreitzer
Oct 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ebook, 2013, non-fiction
I already said this about their book on positive traits, but I feel that it should be reiterated here: These two authors continue to hit it out of the park with their wonderful writing ideas. They've helped me develop well-rounded characters with complex story lines, introduced me to new ways of writing, and have inspired me in so many ways. I hope they continue to publish more writing books--I'll buy every single one of them!
Melinda S. Collins
Oct 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Once again, Angela and Becca have given writers a must-have writing tool! This book was instrumental in finding and creating flaws for an unruly antagonist in my current WIP. From now on, this is will be my FIRST stop in creation of characters--heroes, heroines, and villains alike.
Tracey Pedersen
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is so helpful, from the planning stages of a new book, right through to fleshing out the story. Negative traits have so many more facets than what you first think and they're all contained in this reference book.
Ellie T
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is very useful. The part where I mess up is me forgetting that my character’s flaw is ‘humorless’ and they aren’t humorless.
Nada Sobhi
Dec 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Flaws by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is one of six writers' thesauri books by the two authors and the first of the three I have.

I figured I'd start with The Negative Trait Thesaurus because I always have difficulty giving my characters, especially the main ones, negative attributes. So, it was a good start that opened my eyes to certain negatives that I had not considered before.

I must say one of the reasons this book took a long
Madly Jane
Apr 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very nice book with lots of lists that help prompt research into characterization. I really enjoyed the book, learned a lot, and it raised some questions for me. Loved the Reverse Backstory Tool, which I am now using. Basically you have to want to write a rounded character to do this kind of research. This book acts as a thoughtful guide and aide. I've read though it several times, using it for two of my characters, have made notes in it and have at least a hundred posts marking pages. Of the f ...more
Carolee Noury
May 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Ah! An excellent resource for a problem I struggle with.

There are helpful essays in the beginning full of writing tips. The reference itself gives a great overview of negative traits from "abrasive" to "worry wart."

I love the Appendix items, too:
Needs and Lies Chart
Reverse Backstory Tool
The Character Pyramid

So useful.
Pat W Coffey
May 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Writers of All Levels
Shelves: writing-books
The team of Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi reference book for all levels of writers sits on my desk. It has become a valuable tool during my revision process. Thank you both for this fantastic addition to my writing shelf.
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a really handy reference for writers. Worth the few bucks to get it!
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the best references a writer could hope for.
Mar 23, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: reference
I have a lot of thoughts about this book. First, it was super useful to me and it’s going to stay on my desk as reference for a long time; it lays out whatever trait and gives a laundry list of associated behaviors, possible causes, and example characters to look at. In such a simplistic format, it’s really easy to browse and get inspiration or find what you’re looking for. It covers a lot of ground (106 discrete traits, if I counted right), and each one contains a small list of conflicting trai ...more
L.R. Braden
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing-craft
This is the fourth book I've purchased in this writing craft series, and I'd highly recommend adding it to your shelf if you are a writer. It is a great tool for adding depth and variety to your characters.

Heroes versus villains. Good guys should have good traits and bad guys should have bad ones, right? But people aren't all good or all bad. Every character needs to have both positive and negative traits to be believable, but it's a tricky balance. It's all a matter of degree.

One of my favorite
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read many books that are wonderful resources for writers, amateurs to professionals, and this is certainly one of the best. Flaws are the most attractive facet of any character, and Angela and Becca do us a great favour (as always) in bringing to us this marvel of a help. They save us the trouble of humongous research (for those who want to be authentic to the story and its characters) by presenting this thesaurus, which is all that and much more.

Don't be misguided by the first part of t
Oct 07, 2019 rated it liked it
A good resource, but of more use in conjunction with Ackerman & Puglisi's other writing help book, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus.

I've experienced some disconnect due to the book's definition of some traits don't always match my understanding/association of the trait/name, which can make it frustrating to find what you're looking for at times, especially if led there from the Wound Thesaurus. Of course there's a limit to how many traits can be included in one book, but several times I've been una
T.H. Hernandez
As with the rest of the books in this series, THE NEGATIVE TRAIT THESAURUS is a must-read for all fiction writers. A brief introduction covers how negative traits help develop well-rounded characters. No one has only positive traits, so weaving in negative traits allows us to create lifelike fictional beings that will take shape in believable ways, allowing readers to identify with them. After that, the book again provides a large number of negative traits, including a brief description and poss ...more
Willow Woodford
The Positive and Negative Trait Thesaurus’s talk about using traits to deepen your characterization to help your reader become emotionally invested in them. They use a similar format as the Emotion Thesaurus by defining the characteristic, listing similar attributes, possible causes and associated behaviors. I haven’t used these as thoroughly as I should, mostly because when I bought them I was in the middle of writing something I’d already developed characters for, but I’m in the beginning of a ...more
J.S. Menefee
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing-craft
The Negative Trait Thesaurus is a solid desktop reference book for any fiction author's professional library. I'm very glad I got this book, though I was hesitant at first.

This book will not only help authors while brainstorming ideas for character weaknesses, but it also: provides insights into the kinds of background events that might cause such flaws; how the flaw impacts their view of the events around them; and solid ideas for what it takes to resolve those flaws at the character arc conclu
Willow Woodford
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Negative Trait Thesaurus talks about using traits to deepen your characterization to help your reader become emotionally invested in them. They use a similar format as the Emotion Thesaurus by defining the characteristic, listing similar attributes, possible causes and associated behaviors. I haven’t used these as thoroughly as I should, mostly because when I bought them I was in the middle of writing something I’d already developed characters for, but I’m in the beginning of a new project a ...more
Alexander Shay
May 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Didn't read this one front to back either, just looked through the kind of traits it contained. Unlike the emotion thesaurus, this one contains some useful information in the front about how to use negative traits to make believable characters. Each thesaurus entry shows the positive and negative side of the trait, similar personality aspects, actions, even causes. Useful for when you want to show something bad about your character without outright saying it, but for me personally I found the em ...more
Chris Lofts
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have three in this series; this one along with the Guide to Character attributes and the writers guide to character expression. Not a book to read end to end, in the same way you wouldn't read any thesaurus. The introduction provides some great insights and in sections themselves, provide much food for thought. Great companion books which have a well-deserved place on my desk where I write so they're nice and handy.
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ANGELA ACKERMAN is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of 8 bestselling books for writers, including The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression (now an expanded 2nd Edition). Her books are available in eight languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world.

Angela is also the co-fo

Other books in the series

Writers Helping Writers Series (7 books)
  • The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression
  • The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Attributes
  • The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Personal and Natural Places
  • The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to City Spaces
  • The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Psychological Trauma
  • The Occupation Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Jobs, Vocations, and Careers

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