Cautious or circumspect; to withhold from a place of doubt, mistrust or fear
Growing up in an abusive home; living in a volatile or uncertain environment; suffering a great loss or hurt in the past; exposure to the humiliation or the downfall of another; having a deep understanding of actions and consequences through experience
Characters in Literature:
Lucius Malfoy (Harry Potter); Brimstone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone); Roland Deschain of Gilead (The Gunslinger/Dark Tower Series)
A guarded character is both cautious and slow to trust, an ideal survival trait. Tested heroes (and villains!) who have proven themselves in battle or seen the darkness behind the light are guarded simply by reflex--they understand their life or the lives of others may depend on it. Guarded characters are information seekers--they do not make decisions lightly or in haste, and can make excellent leaders in difficult situations.
Because guarded characters weigh situations before acting and are watchful for change that will end in a negative, spontaneity can suffer. These character types can be secretive or seen as moody and often have an under-developed sense of humor. Even people who are deeply embedded in a guarded person's life may feel that there is a wall keeping them from knowing him or her completely. Guarded people can have a hard time letting go and enjoying the moment, and they are tentative in giving themselves over to emotion. They question the motivations of others and sometimes this can spoil the moment when something is offered freely and genuinely.
Politicians, policemen, military personnel, criminals, prisoners of wars, battered women, abused or neglected children, leaders bearing sole responsibility for people that are at a disadvantage or at risk in some way
Cliches to Avoid:
The lone, tortured hero with no past; mentally ill patients mistrusting their doctors; paranoid governments unable to work together to settle on a critical life-or-death issue yet must for the plot to succeed; the character who becomes guarded because of a crippling romantic betrayal or loss
Twists on the Traditional Guarded:
- With heroes, a guarded personality type is often accompanied with strong intuition, heightened observation skills and sometimes fast reflexes, all of which allow them to act quickly even though a guarded nature should say otherwise. Make it harder on your survivalist hero or villain by not giving them ultra-developed intuition or physical attributes that overpower the negatives of a guarded trait.
- Place the naturally secretive or guarded character in a situation that demands trust and openness to succeed.
- Guarded characters usually embrace this side of their nature, believing it to be a trait of survival. Why not create a character who does not like feeling that he must question before choosing and dislikes holding back before trusting. Let his quest to let go of his guarded nature become part of his character arc (but not via romantic elements).
Lazy, reckless, impulsive, polite, charming, honest