Character Trait Thesaurus Entry: Optimistic

Definition: an inclination to anticipate the best possible outcome or see events in the most positive light

Causes: an honest belief that people are basically good and well-intentioned; the philosophy that if you believe things to be a certain way, they will be; naiveté; a sheltered upbringing; a deliberate refusal to see or give credence to anything unpleasant; a desire to maintain a good attitude and avoid negativity by always looking on the bright side

Characters in Literature: Pollyanna, Anne Shirley (of Green Gables), Cinderella

Positives: Optimistic people are usually pleasant to be around. They are peacemakers, striving to maintain happiness and good relations, so they're not usually the cause of conflict. An optimist's positive vibes rub off on others, and seemingly beget more positivity. Optimists often have other admirable qualities as well, such as respect for others, compassion, and diplomacy. In a world full of naysayers, the optimist brings light and hope and can be a safe haven for your hero in a difficult time.

Negatives: Some optimists choose positivity over reality, refusing to accept things the way they really are. This can render them unrealistic and impractical. In serious situations, the optimist's die-hard hope despite impossible circumstances can become frustrating. At times like these, they lose credibility for being naive and unrealistic. The extreme optimist is completely unprepared to cope with the worst-case scenario; in such a situation, she may become a burden to those around her instead of a support.

Common Portrayals: little old ladies, Southern belles, mothers, children, religious people

Cliches to Avoid: the wide-eyed child wholeheartedly believing in the impossible, only to see it miraculously happen the way she imagined; the optimist whose faith never wavers; the quiet, timid, but wise-beyond-her-years optimist 

Twists on the Traditional Optimist:  
  • Optimists are almost always portrayed as girls. Please, for the love of all that's chocolate, someone give us a strong, credible male optimist.
  • Many optimists remain true to their beliefs no matter how bad the situation gets. I'd like to see a more realistic optimist whose resolve is tested and wavers in the light of horrible circumstances but returns when it really matters
  • Instead of the typical naive optimist, how about a wise one? Or an intellectual one? A highly respected one?

Conflicting Characteristics to make your Optimist Unique or More Interesting: wise, intelligent, bold, confrontational, rowdy, honest


Bonnee Crawford said...

Najaf Mazari from The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-sharif would probably fit under this category, but as a male instead of a female, and one who's optimism is tested and wavers. I like optimists, most of the time anyway...

Traci Kenworth said...

I'm writing a male optimist right now, of course, he's also strong, courageous, loyal, and get's the job done hero material. I'm an optimist myself, so I enjoy characters that are as well. Great post!!

Leslie Rose said...

I just finished reading Anne of Green Gables for the first time, so I am abuzz in the optimism zone. Loved it and Anne Shirley's outlook on life. I can't believe it took me so long to read this wonderful book.

Anonymous said...

My WIP includes two (maybe three) rowdy, slightly irresponsible, outgoing, reckless, hardworking optimists. How's that for some differences! Oh, and one of them is a man.


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