Good characters are present in nearly every story in every genre of fiction, television, and film. You root for them, you empathize with them, and you want them to succeed. Most good characters contain a number of positive personality traits and characteristics that strengthen their relationship with the audience.
What Is a Good Character?
Positive character traits define a good character. A good character’s core values, the things they fundamentally believe in and fight for, have beneficial effects on those around them. A good character comes in many forms—a superhero, an honorable lawyer, a single mother, or a boy wizard—but regardless of their role, their list of traits is comprised of good qualities that emotionally connect them with their audience.
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7 Common Traits That Make a Good Character in Writing
Being good requires having more than one good character trait. A good character possesses a number of positive traits, as well as strong moral principles that benefit the universe they exist in. Some examples of good character traits are:
- Dependability: A dependable character makes a good leader, giving others someone reliable they can trust. A good character is someone who is always there to support the important people in their life, and doesn’t break their promises. They show up for their friends and family, and are always there when they’re needed.
- Kindness: Doing nice things for others without an expectation of anything in return is a good trait that shows an admirable brand of selflessness, setting an example and becoming a role model for others. Kindness does not have to mean your character is weak, either (Mary Poppins is an example of a character who was kind and caring, but stern and forthright in her execution).
- Empathy: A good character is empathetic in nature—they have the ability to relate to those around them. Their ability to put themselves in another’s shoes makes them compassionate and considerate, qualities that makes the character more relatable to the audience.
- Courage: Courageousness takes on many forms, and whether it’s a final showdown between the good character and the bad character, a parent going back to school, or a suffragette leading a movement, people admire those who will brave any adversity, and stand up for what they believe in.
- Integrity: Good characters do the right thing, exuding enough self-control to make good decisions on behalf of others—regardless of the cost to themselves. They consider the implications of their actions and how they will affect those around them, showing a high level of self discipline in order to stay true to their values.
- Self-awareness: A good character is honest about who they are and what they want—however, their humility keeps them grounded, and aware of their limitations. They have no qualms about expressing their authentic self, and do not let their ego impede their ability to be good.
- Affable: An affable character is easy to talk to, and always willing to listen. They get along well with others, put other characters at ease.
4 Examples of Classic Good Characters
There are a number of famously good characters depicted in a countless number of films and literature. Some classic examples are:
- Jim, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Jim is loyal to Huck, and does whatever he can to protect him. Jim is intelligent and kind, often serving as a voice of reason. His actions are always selfless, and motivated by his desire to be a good person and friend.
- Dorothy Gale, Wizard of Oz. Dorothy is caring and good to animals. She’s desperate to help others, and will do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of those around her. Naive at first, Dorothy becomes more assertive, enduring obstacles with her newfound friends and helping them achieve their goals before she reaches her own.
- Peter Parker, Spiderman. Peter Parker is an exemplary good character. He’s honest, he’s loyal, he’s brave, and he always tries to do the right thing. He puts himself in danger in order to rescue others, and outwardly cares about his friends and family. He’s a hero people believe in, and who always shows up to save the day.
- Severus Snape, Harry Potter. Although his outward crassness and hostility toward the protagonist are considerably negative character traits, his underlying motivations betray a much nobler side to him. Beneath his rough exterior, Snape is a brave and loyal character with a strong moral compass, all traits that ultimately make him one of the good guys.