Inspiration Decks Character Traits 4 min2023-09-19 00:00

100+ Character Traits of a Desperate Person

desperate character trait

To engage your reader, it's important to always show, not tell, the traits of your characters.

Desperation is a character trait that describes a person who is willing to do anything to achieve their goals or desires, often because they feel like they have no other options. A desperate character may act impulsively, take risks, or resort to extreme measures in their pursuit of what they want. They may also display a sense of urgency or anxiety as their desperation drives them to act quickly. Desperation can be a compelling trait for a character, as it can create tension, raise the stakes, and reveal their true motivations. However, it's important to balance a character's desperation with other traits, such as empathy, intelligence, or moral principles, to avoid making them one-dimensional or unsympathetic.

Possible Causes of Being Desperate

You might want to weave these into your character's backstory to build a more believable character:

  • Fear of abandonment or rejection

  • Childhood trauma or neglect

  • Unmet emotional or physical needs

  • Unfulfilled dreams or goals

  • Substance abuse or addiction

  • Chronic stress or anxiety

  • Insecurity or low self-esteem

  • Depression or other mental health issues

  • Financial difficulties or poverty

Attitudes Related to Being Desperate

You may be able to show being desperate through their attitudes:

  • Vulnerability or susceptibility to manipulation

  • A sense of urgency or desperation

  • Willingness to take risks or make sacrifices to achieve a goal

  • Lack of control over one's emotions or actions

  • Fear of failure or losing something important

  • Strong attachment to people or things

  • Difficulty thinking clearly or making rational decisions

  • Feeling hopeless or helpless

  • Intense longing or craving for something

Thoughts and Struggles Linked With Desperation

Here are some ideas for things your desperate character may think or struggle with:

  • A struggle to maintain their dignity and self-respect

  • A fear of losing what little they have left

  • A sense of hopelessness or despair

  • A sense of shame or embarrassment for their situation

  • A constant feeling of anxiety or stress

  • An overwhelming desire for something they believe they need or can't live without

  • A feeling of being trapped or stuck with no way out

  • A willingness to take drastic measures to achieve their goal, even if it means breaking the law or hurting others

  • A lack of trust in others and a tendency to act alone

Emotions Associated With Being Desperate

Here are some ideas for emotions your desperate character may experience:

  • Frustration

  • Anguish

  • Anxiety

  • Helplessness

  • Despair

  • Agitation

  • Hopelessness

  • Panic

  • Fear

Facial Expressions Linked to Being Desperate

Here are some facial expressions your desperate character may exhibit:

  • Sweating or flushed face

  • Rapid or shallow breathing

  • Furrowed brow

  • Clenched jaw or teeth grinding

  • Quivering or trembling lips

  • Pleading eyes

  • Wrinkled forehead

  • Biting or licking lips

  • Rapid blinking or wide eyes

Body Language Associated With Being Desperate

Here is some body language your desperate character may exhibit:

  • Wide eyes or dilated pupils

  • Clenched fists or wringing hands

  • Pacing or fidgeting

  • Begging or pleading

  • Trembling or shaking

  • Repeating oneself or stuttering

  • Clinging to others or objects

  • Heavy breathing or gasping for air

  • Sweating or flushed face

Behaviors Linked With Being Desperate

Here are some behaviors your desperate character may exhibit:

  • Obsessing over a desired outcome

  • Taking extreme risks or making impulsive decisions

  • Stalking or harassing someone

  • Sacrificing personal values or beliefs to achieve a goal

  • Begging or pleading for help

  • Lashing out in anger or frustration

  • Resorting to illegal or unethical behavior

  • Showing signs of depression or anxiety

Growth and Evolution of Desperate Characters

Here are some ways that your desperate character may grow and evolve over time:

  • They might become more determined as they refuse to give up in the face of adversity.

  • The character might become more self-aware as they reflect on their past choices and how they led to their current situation.

  • They might become more resilient as they learn to bounce back from setbacks and keep moving forward.

  • They might become more grateful as they appreciate the small things in life that they previously took for granted.

  • The character might become more courageous as they face their fears and take risks to improve their situation.

  • They might become more empathetic as they realize the struggles of others around them.

  • The character might become more humble as they learn to rely on the help of others.

  • The character might become more resourceful as they search for a way out of their desperate situation.

  • They might become more creative as they think outside the box to find solutions to their problems.

Stereotypes of Desperate Characters to Avoid

Try to avoid writing stereotypical desperate characters like these examples:

  • Avoid making the character too selfish or unsympathetic. While desperation can lead to desperate measures, the character should still have redeeming qualities that make readers root for them.

  • Avoid making the character overly melodramatic or unrealistic. While desperation can lead to intense emotions, the character should still feel grounded in reality and relatable to readers.

  • Avoid making the character too passive or helpless. While desperation can lead to vulnerability, the character should still have agency and take actions to try and improve their situation.

  • Avoid making the character too one-dimensional or predictable. A desperate character should have layers and complexities that make them feel more realistic.

Negatives of Being Desperate

Here are some potential negatives of being desperate. Note: These are subjective, and some might also be seen as positives depending on the context.

  • Becoming manipulative or deceitful to get what you want

  • Clinging to unhealthy relationships or situations

  • Losing self-respect and self-esteem

  • Alienating others with neediness and desperation

  • Being willing to compromise morals and values to achieve goals

  • Acting impulsively and making poor decisions

  • Feeling anxious and stressed constantly

Positives of Being Desperate

Here are some potential positives of being desperate. Note: These are subjective, and some might also be seen as negatives depending on the context.

  • Being desperate can force characters to take risks and step out of their comfort zone, leading to growth and personal development.

  • Desperate characters are highly motivated to achieve their goals, which can make them persistent and determined.

  • Desperation can make characters resourceful and creative in finding solutions to their problems.

  • Desperate characters often have a strong sense of urgency, which can add tension and excitement to a story.

  • Desperation can reveal a character's vulnerability and humanity, making them more relatable and sympathetic to readers.

Characteristics of Desperate People

Here are some potential characteristics of desperate people:

  • Obsessive

  • Fearful

  • Needy

  • Hopeless

  • Exhausted

  • Pathetic

  • Begging

  • Insecure

  • Clinging

  • Demanding

  • Vulnerable

  • Agonized

  • Panic-stricken

  • Frenzied

  • Crying out

  • Pleading

  • Frantic

  • Depressed

Relationships of Desperate Characters

Here are some ways that being desperate could affect your character's relationships:

  • They may become controlling or manipulative in an attempt to get what they want.

  • They may have trouble trusting others and constantly seek reassurance.

  • Desperate people may cling to others and be overly dependent on them.

  • They may struggle to maintain healthy boundaries in their relationships.

  • They may engage in risky or self-destructive behaviors to cope with their desperation.

  • Desperate people may become aggressive or hostile toward others if they feel rejected or abandoned.

  • Desperate people may be drawn to toxic or abusive relationships.

  • Desperate people may become withdrawn or isolate themselves from others.

  • Desperate people may push others away by constantly seeking attention or validation.

Examples From Books of Characters Who Are Desperate

  • Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • Jean Valjean from Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

  • Hamlet from Hamlet by William Shakespeare

  • Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

  • Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

  • Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

  • Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Writing Exercises for Writing Desperate Characters

Here are some writing exercises you might try for learning to write desperate characters:

  • Put the character in a morally ambiguous situation where they have to choose between doing something desperate to achieve their goal or compromising their values. Explore their thought process and the consequences of their decision.

  • Create a backstory for the character that explains why they are desperate. Did they experience a traumatic event? Did they lose someone or something important to them? How did this shape their personality?

  • Write a monologue from the character's perspective where they express their desperation. What do they want, and why do they feel like they need it so badly? What will happen if they don't get it?

  • Write a dialogue between the character and someone they are trying to convince to help them. How do they persuade the other person to take a risk and help them out of their desperate situation?

  • Write a scene where the character is forced to confront their desperation and the consequences of their actions. How do they react? Do they feel regret or relief? What do they learn about themselves?

  • Write a scene where the character is in a dire situation with no apparent way out. Explore their thoughts, actions, and emotions as they struggle to find a solution.

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