Writer's Guide to Character Traits - A Review

Writer's Guide to Character Traits
By Linda N. Edelstein, PH.D.
Writer’s Digest Books

At almost 400 pages (trade paperback sized), this book looks really promising, but it bites off more than it can chew, trying to be all things to all people. Four hundred pages isn't enough for that.

It’s set up in an encyclopedic format, starting with the general categories of personality types and child and adolescent types and moving into more specifics such as psychological disorders, criminal types, sexual issues, etc. In each of these areas, you’re given the stock description of whatever the topic is. 

Not only does it try to define character types, it goes on to discuss life stages: childhood, adolescence and young adulthood; falling in love; getting married; having a family; divorce; step children, aging, bereavement, etc.

So we’ve got character types AND life stages. That’s awfully ambitious. Too ambitious, IMHO, because what you get is a superficial look at all of it. My feeling is that if I built a character on what’s here, I’d end up with a very clichéd character.

So what good is it?

Well, if one used this as an initial resource, it might have value. For instance, if you have a character (let’s say a villain) who has certain traits and you want him to appear consistent, you might peruse the psychological disorders section.

Let’s say, for instance, you decide that your character fits the profile of a narcissist. This book would give you some basic core traits but not a true in-depth understanding of the possible ways that personality profile might manifest itself. FREX: How does a narcissist respond when his view of himself is threatened? That’s not really covered here. (Having worked for a narcissist, I can tell you that they can do some pretty surprising—and appalling—things in the name of ego.) So you’d need to move on to more specialized source material, but this would work as a jumping off point. Just don't expect too much.