Character Trait Entry: Independent

Definition: not requiring or relying on others

Causes: trust issues, control issues, shyness, a person who is more comfortable being alone than with other people, a history of oppression or inequality, the belief that one can do things better/more quickly/more efficiently than others, healthy self-confidence, a history of personal success and capability, a desire to be beholden to no one

Characters in Literature: Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), Laura Ingalls Wilder, Han Solo

Positives: Independents see themselves clearly. They know what they can do and are comfortable taking action when others might be cowed. Their past successes prove their capability, so they're able to work alone, and often prefer to do so. Independents are sure of themselves and so aren't overly concerned about the perceptions of others. As a result, they are better able to maintain focus on their goals and the job at hand. They also are often forward-thinkers, moving past the status quo to embrace ideals that are ahead of their time.

Negatives: Because they are so often alone, Independents may have difficult working with or relating to others. Their lack of concern with what others think may create a perception about them of aloofness, smugness, or superiority. Their dependence on self may give loved ones the idea that they aren't needed or even much wanted, and may widen the gap between Independents and the people in their life.

Common Portrayals: women suffragettes, Civil rights leaders, inventors, explorers, geniuses

Cliches to Avoid: the independent, strong-willed, kick-butt woman who doesn't need a man in her life; the loner who claims to need no one, but by the end of the story realizes his need for intimacy with others

Twists on the Traditional Independent: 
  • Give your Independent the confidence to stand alone, but provide him with a core group of friends/allies whose support and feedback only strengthen him (think William Wallace).
  • Rather than making a character independent by nature, what if independence is a trait he must choose in order to meet his goals? 

Conflicting Characteristics to make your Independent unique or more interesting: outgoing, popular, doubtful, nervous, obedient, apologetic


Traci Kenworth said...

Oooh, love Han Solo. His character
was so complex, so different from
Luke(though my heart still belonged
to Luke), Han intrigued me. I think
it was all that sparring he did with
Princess Leia and everyone else. Lol.
But you knew, down deep, you could
count on him to back his friends. Laura Ingalls Wilder is another favorite. I learned to be strong and
independent from her and that I could face any storm. You're right, it is best to put independents with a core group of characters, it brings out the heart in them.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

A person can also be independent as a means of self-protection. If he doesn't count on anyone else's support, he won't be disappointed when it doesn't come.

Lisa Alber said...

Becca, I just now discovered this site--love it! I still have "Bookstack" bookmarked on my blog, but I'll bookmark this one, too--as soon as I can. Doing NaNo and it's kicking my butt; hoping to get in a few blog posts this month, though, hopefully.

Actually, this post is apt. I'm wrestling with an independent type of guy for my NaNo WIP. It is hard to get away from the cliches, isn't it? Though, I did have him befriend a quirky teenage girl early on...:-)

Happy Saturday, Lisa

Tara Tyler said...

awesome complete definition & workup of this character trait! and han solo is the MAN!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Fantastic description of an independent character/person. It really made me think.

Michael Offutt said...

Oh Harrison was so handsome and young in that photo. Age takes us all down...Cowboys and Aliens...meh.

I love the breakdown here on independent characters. Great post.

Becca Puglisi said...

So happy you found us, Lisa! And Susan, you're absolutely right. That's another solid cause for a person's independence.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You just described the main character of my two books to a T!

BettyZade said...

This post was right on cue for me today, since my story character is an independent kick ass female. I just don't want her to come off as cliche, so I'm trying to think of good twists for her personality. Oh, and thanks for the Han Solo pic. Made my day!

renmbrock said...

Oooh, I am LOVING this series. This is so resourceful. Thanks so much for providing these!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Great post, and Han Solo is perfect! Sometimes, I think it's easy to forget about the negatives. I love that you included some--and they are spot on! :-)

Carrie Butler said...

Oo, I love the idea of independence being a trait the character must choose. Great job, Becca! :)

Kelly Polark said...

Ahhh, I love Han Solo.

Great character trait to feature!


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