I was halfway through writing my new novel, Key Largo Blues, when I realized that Jessie, the 24-year-old granddaughter of Frieda, didn’t have any flaws. I had to find some quick, and that’s how I discovered a fantastic tool for writers.
If you check out the TOC of the Negative Trait Thesaurus, you’ll see there’s a long list of traits your characters might have. I went down the list thinking “Nope. Nope. Yes. Maybe. No,” until I had a half dozen possible traits Jessie might possess. I also noted the page numbers where the individual traits were explained / expanded upon.
Then I went to the chapter that more fully described each trait, reading about them in detail. For example, here are the two pages relative to the trait “Flaky.” (Sorry they aren’t clearer. I couldn’t reproduce the pages very well here, but that’s no reflection on the book, which is very nicely done.)
I decided flaky wasn’t exactly right for Jessie, but did select gullible, know-it-all, and melodramatic (hey, she’s 24). Now Jessie is a more well-rounded, if flawed character, and I didn’t have to spend all day trying to think of different characteristics. Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi did it for me.
They also published a couple of sister books, The Positive Trait Thesaurus, and The Emotion Thesaurus. I bought all three, because I’ll welcome any help I can get, and I recommend them to any writer who’s serious about getting something done in this lifetime.