Causes: Strong focus and ability to make decisions; having a set goal, objective or desire that is personal and important; being highly committed to an idea or belief
Characters in Literature: Doug (Okay For Now); Katniss (The Hunger Games); Perrin (The Wheel of Time)
Positives: The determined character has a state of mind that leads to perseverance, which will allow them to achieve their long term goals. They are able to set emotion aside, analyze a situation or action and weigh whether it brings them closer to their goal. Determined people can make decisions and create realistic goals and objectives, and work toward them step by step. They play to their strengths and will accept help if it is required. Determined individuals can set ego aside and work hard as required. They have strong focus, and can overcome doubt or insecurities which might sway their mindset.
Negatives: Determined characters can have narrow focus and sometimes not see (or care) about how their actions affect others. People may feel shut out or excluded, and relationships can suffer, especially if other parties do not understand or appreciate the high level of dedication to a task. While a determined character is focused on a goal, they may miss other important events that can cause friction or conflict, and these events may eventually build up to a point where they sabotage efforts of obtaining that goal.
Common Portrayals: Athletes, Competitors, Law Enforcers & Military, Leaders; Serial Killers; Stalkers; Paparazzi
Cliches to Avoid: The athlete or competitor who will win at all costs and leave behind a body count to do it; the ex cop with a vendetta; the military Rambo type who was wronged and is determined to bring his government down; the character who wants something outlandish and who is not suited for the task, yet manages to achieve it through an incredible amount of fortunate coincidences and luck.
Twists on the Traditional Determined:
- The darker cousin of determination is obsession. It's easy to show obsession leading to a person's undoing, so instead, show us a hero who buries himself in it, but then realizes what is happening and pulls himself out in time.
- With villains, determination is intrinsic and so readers take it as a matter of course. This means some authors skim on defining WHY the villain is determined, so if you write this trait, don't skimp! The WHY is what creates empathy, so show us the cause, the need, that lies behind striving to obtain their goal.
- Determination can never be enough. Challenge your character morally, and add conflict that makes them question their choice and mindset. Self-doubt can be a powerful way to define determination.
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