Character Trait Entry: Persistent

Definition: stubbornly continuing on, despite opposition, difficulty, or danger 

Causes: desperation, the belief that one's goal is the only thing worth pursuing, ambition, a need to prove oneself (to others or to oneself), a stubborn nature, obsession, having learned through experience that persistence pays off in the end

Characters in Literature: Scarlett O'Hara, Gollum, Andy Dufresne (The Shawshank Redemption)

Positives: Persistent people have great will power. They will do whatever it takes to achieve the goal. When discomfort, inconvenience, or pain would sidetrack some, Persistents are not distracted from their purpose. They have incredible focus, always keeping the prize in their sights. In this way, persistence as a character trait is admired and envied. We can't help but be impressed by someone who perseveres against circumstances that would defeat the average person.

Negatives: Because of their single-mindedness, Persistents often become consumed by their desire. Everything else is peripheral: career, relationships, morals. They are so focused on the goal that everything else falls to the wayside. Persistents are often stubborn to a fault, refusing to give up even when the pursuit of their goal becomes destructive. They don't heed the advice of others, and sacrifice common sense for obsession. Though the goal may be noble, a Persistent's way of pursuing if is often less than honorable.

Common Portrayals: revolutionaries, millionnaires, CEOs, military and world leaders, valedictorians, love interests, visionaries

Cliches to Avoid: The thwarted, often-rejected love interest whose persistence pays off in winning over the hero/heroine; the rags to riches story; the student with many strikes against him whose single-minded focus on his education gets him his diploma or degree

Twists on the Traditional Persistent:  
  • We often see the story told of the young man or woman with no advantages remaining persistent in the pursuit of their goal. But the well-to-do have their own set of hardships. What about an affluent or successful person having to overcome their own particular set of difficulties to achieve something hard to obtain?
  • The goal is usually something high and lofty: success in education or business, getting the guy/girl, riches. But persistence can be exemplified in the pursuit of something smaller, too: buying one's first house, accepting oneself, making the varsity team, overcoming addiction. If the goal is seemingly impossible for your character, it's something worth striving for, no matter how insignificant others might consider it.
  • Persistence isn't always applied to the pursuit of admirable things. Remember that the villain and his persistence in his unsavory goals will also have a big impact on your story.

Conflicting Characteristics to Make your Persistent Unique or More Interesting: compassionate, fearful, weak-willed, contented, unintelligent, polite

12 comments:

Bish Denham said...

Yes, if nothing else, poor Gollum was persistent.

Heather said...

I love the idea of a twist on something the character wants, something less tangible than an object. Hmmm... you've inspired me.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Who woulda thought Gollum would actually save the day with his sick and twisted persistence?

Angela Brown said...

I can't help thinking of Pinky and The Brain from the Animaniacs, I think it was the Animaniacs. Anywho, every day Pinky would ask Brain what they were going to do. Every. Day. And like the persistent thing Brain was, each day he'd answer with the same thing. That their little mousey selves were going to try and take over the world. Yeah, that's some villainy persistence.

Chuck said...

My wife always goes around saying, "my precious...my precious". She actually freaks the dogs out when she does that voice...and me too a little bit. But she persists. Great Post!

Laura Howard said...

My villains are very persistent for their long term goals... It is a challenge for someone like me to write these characters, since I'm so easily distracted. :)

Susanne Drazic said...

Great post!

Romance Book Haven said...

Great posts. But I'm a bit scared of persistent characters! No idea what they may do :)

Traci Kenworth said...

The search for My Precious goes on. Lol. Great post.

Leslie Rose said...

I'll see your Gollum and raise you a Frodo. He was more understated, but persistent none the less. I'm also thinking Barney on "How I Met Your Mother."

Aimee Katherine said...

Brilliant post :D

Avery Frost said...

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