Character Trait Entry: Generous

Definition:  liberal in giving; bighearted

Causes: Extreme gratitude for one's good fortune or health; a desire to share, lift up and help others; deriving pleasure through the raising of spirits; growing up in a strong, giving family or community; coming from an impoverished background or enduring hardship where the generosity of others made a life-changing impact on one's living conditions and attitude; a desire to pay back or pay forward

Characters in Literature: Santa Claus; Geppetto (Pinocchio); Fezziwig (A Christmas Carol)


Generous characters are fulfilled by bringing comfort to others, hoping to add to their happiness and satisfaction in a meaningful way. They are satisfied with what they have as they view it as 'enough', and hold a high appreciation for their circumstances and the important people in their life. Generous people are content, and derive pleasure through giving. They often make good listeners, and are very observant. If they see a need, they step forward to fill it to the best of their ability, rather than wait for someone else to do it. Generous people are charismatic and inspire kindness and generosity in others through unselfish acts. They see giving as being a duty as a decent human being.


Generous people view the world through a positive filter, seeing the best in people. This can lead to nativity regarding the human condition, leaving them open to being taken advantage of by those without scruples. They can also be generous to a fault, helping others to a point where their own welfare suffers (giving away rent money to someone in need, offering to take on extra work that one does not have time for; giving time or expertize to charities or committees, leaving little time for family and self, etc). Generous people find it difficult to say no, and so often over-commit rather than risk disappointing those depending on them.

Common Portrayals: 

The kindly grandmother, the neighbor who provides for everyone on her street, the wealthy philanthropist, church pastors & ladies' groups; charitable organizations (the salvation army, etc)

Cliches to Avoid:  Having a 'heart of gold'

Twists on the Traditional Generous:  
  • An interesting bit of conflict with generous people is when they feel pulled in separate directions by opposing needs. Put your generous character in a position where they must choose who to help, and that inner turmoil at feeling that they are letting down the other party.
  • Generous people have dreams and desires too. What happens when a dream conflicts with the needs of others? Does your generous character sacrifice the dream for the greater good, or for once, choose self-fulfillment?
  • Consider an environment where a generous person is continually taken advantage of. How does it affect them--do they bend, or break?
Conflicting Characteristics to make your Generous Character unique or more interesting: Guarded, Impulsive, Conceited, Bossy, Reckless, Proper, Prejudiced

12 comments: said...

Ooh I could write a novel in these comments. I wish the world would read this. Great stuff!

Becca Puglisi said...

Great choice, Ange. Feeling quite festive as I head out to Al's work party, though not exactly generous. Al refuses to let me buy anything for the White Elephant exchange. Instead, he scrounged some old crap from the garage.


Jemi Fraser said...

Perfect choice! Of course :)

The Golden Eagle said...

Reading about generous characters sometimes saddens me; particularly in stories where they've been taken advantage of, when they're just trying to help.

It's a great character trait to explore, though. :)

Angela Ackerman said...

Thanks everyone! I had to make sure Santa was represented this month, right? :)

I know what you mean, The Golden Eagle. It makes me sad for humanity when someone intent on doing good is taken for a ride.

Arlee Bird said...

Tis the season ho,ho,ho.

Personally I've grown a bit jaded, but I still tend to be an easy mark. You really covered this sort of character in this post.

Journaling Woman at my memoir blog
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Traci Kenworth said...

What a great character to have around!! Though you're right, they could get taken advantage of easily. Thanks for the great entry, as always!!

Clarissa Draper said...

Question for you: When you publish this thesaurus, will it be available for Kindle?

Becca Puglisi said...

We believe so, Clarissa. Not positive, since we're still working through the details. But I have a Kindle myself, so I'd like to see it in Kindle format.

Lisa Gail Green said...

Tell the truth, you saved this one for Xmas, didn't you?? Santa is too perfect...

Mary Witzl said...

I know someone who is so generous that I could show up at her house, unannounced, with half a dozen hungry strangers with muddy boots -- and she'd hurry off to the kitchen to cook us a whopping big meal. I've modeled a character in my WiP after her, and she's HARD WORK to get right because she's so implausible. I've had to make her bossy and a bit insensitive just to make her more believable. I like the idea of making a generous person choose to add tension to the conflict and improve the narrative.

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