the negative trait thesaurus
Book Review

The Negative Trait Thesaurus-Recommended

The Manuscript Shredder recommends: The Negative Trait Thesaurus

Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi’s thesauri are a common sight on many writers’ bookshelves. Why? These books offer tons of information is a simple to reference form. Where many books on writing are long essays intended to be read from cover to cover, these books are organized as reference materials allowing writers to find the answer to their question quickly and get back to writing.

Why would I need a Negative Trait Thesaurus?negative trait thesaurus

Characters need flaws. (No, being an adorable klutz doesn’t count.) Real people have flaws. Your characters should too. Flaws will make them more relatable and more realistic.

Without flaws, your characters cannot grow or change. Flaws are also sources of tension and conflict. These are critical for propelling your character into action. No conflict means no story.

(Need more information on creating character flaws? click here)

Character flaws also allow you to set up a dynamic relationship between the hero and the villain. The contemporary villain is no longer allowed to sit in a dark tower and think evil thoughts. He must be actively trying to keep our hero down. The most effective villains are those that mirror the hero’s flaw. For example, in the Lego Batman movie, Batman’s flaw was his inability to form meaningful relationships. The Joker mirrored this flaw by always working with a team of villains. Every time they two fought, Batman was alone and the Joker had an enormous crew. This dynamic emphasized Batman’s flaw and brought an additional layer of tension to the relationship.

What’s great about the Negative Trait Thesaurus?

  1. This book is the blueprint for planning character arcs. It is simple to reference and easy to understand. Ackerman and Puglisi have stripped the information down and presented it in a clear, concise format that won’t have you wasting hours searching for answers.
  2. The book is comprehensive, covering over 200 different character flaws. You will never run of personal demons to give your characters.
  3. The book also has short essays on using the material to improve your writing. These compact articles provide valuable insight without wasting space.

What’s not so great?

This book is a starting point, not an answer key. Adhering too closely to the suggestions can lead to formulaic writing. Make sure you add your own unique perspective to your characters.

Add the Negative Trait Thesaurus to your writer’s library

Ackerman and Puglisi have created a superb reference for writers. While I like most of the books in this series, The Negative Trait Thesaurus is my favorite. If you only have funds for one, choose this one.

A link to the book (Affiliate)


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M.L. Keller is a freelance writer and editor. Her blog "The Manuscript Shredder" is focused on helping emerging writers hone their craft.


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