Character Entry Trait: Calm

Angela's over at Charity's Writing Journey today, talking about the Top 5 Issues She Sees When Critiquing. If you're interested in learning what not to include in your manuscript, check out her post.


Definition: free from agitation or disturbance; composed; level-headed

Causes: an easy-going nature, a boring personality, lack of imagination, practicality (why get upset if I can't do anything about it?), an upbringing that focused on composure and emotional temperance, a desire for peace

Characters in LiteratureLegolas, Spock, Nick Andros (The Stand), Yoda

Positives: Calm people don't rock the boat. They're dependable, do what they say they'll do, and can be relied upon to react predictably in any situation. As such, they act as stabilizers in a high drama cast of characters. They don't allow emotion to sway them and can be depended upon to hold fast to the basics and make solid decisions. Calm characters can be the glue that keeps a group from falling apart.

Negatives: Because of their consistency and reliability, calm characters are usually pretty boring. Because they always seem to do the right thing, they can be seen as cardboard, unrealistic, and forgettable.

Common Portrayals: parents and grandparents, religious figures, mentors, immortals

Cliches to Avoid the wise mentor who shows no emotion, no matter how desperate the scenario; the martyr who calmly and serenely faces his own death; the calm character who never makes a mistake

Twists on the Traditional Calm Character: 
  • Emotionally, your character might be even-keeled, but he can be weak in other areas. Give him an achilles heel or crazy quirk to make him more interesting.
  • Because calm character are somewhat boring, they aren't usually cast as heroes. But what if calmness is a fault that has to be overcome? What if the calm demeanor is a deep-seated survival technique that must be broken down so the hero can experience real emotion? 

Conflicting Characteristics to Make your Calm Character Unique or More Interestingadventurous, loyal, glamorous, rude, messy, gluttonous, pessimistic


Charity Bradford said...

Thanks to Angela and Becca for all of their hard work!

Spock has always been one of my favorite characters of ALL time.

Heather said...

I've had an epiphany about a character I'm developing while reading this one. Love it when that happens. Thank you SO much!

Jemi Fraser said...

Great examples - Spock, Legoas & Yoda are all so different, yet they do all represent calm so well! :)

Anonymous said...

This is a great article. It's rare to see a writing post on the calm personality trait and ideas on how to make them come alive as characters. Thanks!

The Golden Eagle said...

Those are great ideas on how to twist a calm character!

Christine Rains said...

Oh, I love your ideas on how to twist this trait. It is difficult to write an interesting calm protagonist, but I do like a challenge!


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