To engage your reader, it's important to always show, not tell, the traits of your characters.
The character trait "helpful" refers to a person's willingness and ability to assist others in need. A helpful person is someone who is kind, empathetic, and compassionate toward others. They are always ready to lend a hand, offer support, and provide guidance to those who require it. Being helpful involves being selfless and putting others' needs ahead of your own. It is a valuable trait that can make a significant positive impact on the lives of those around you.
Possible Causes of Being Helpful
You might want to weave these into your character's backstory to build a more believable character:
Altruism: Some individuals are simply wired to prioritize the needs of others over their own, which can lead to a helpful personality.
Upbringing: Growing up in a family or community that values helping others can instill a helpful personality in individuals.
Empathy: People who are naturally empathetic tend to have a helpful nature, as they can understand and relate to the struggles of others.
Personal experiences: Those who have been helped in the past may feel a sense of duty to pay it forward and help others.
Attitudes Linked to Being Helpful
You may be able to show your character's helpfulness through their attitudes:
Being proactive in identifying opportunities to help others
Willingness to collaborate with others toward a common goal
Patience and understanding toward those who need help
Empathy and compassion toward others
Going above and beyond to meet the needs of others
Openness to feedback and constructive criticism
Willingness to offer assistance or support to others
Respectful and nonjudgmental attitude toward others
Active listening to understand the needs of others
Thoughts and Struggles Related to Being Helpful
Here are some ideas for things your helpful character may think or struggle with:
They may have a desire to fix or solve problems, which can lead them to overstep their bounds or take on too much responsibility.
They may have a strong sense of empathy, which can lead them to take on the emotional burdens of others.
They may feel guilty or responsible for the well-being of others, even when it's not their place to intervene.
They may have a tendency to avoid conflict or confrontation in order to maintain harmony, even when it's not in their own best interest.
They may struggle with boundaries and may put others' needs before their own to the point of self-neglect.
They may feel a sense of purpose or fulfillment in helping others, but may also struggle with burnout or feeling unappreciated.
They may feel frustrated or overwhelmed when they are unable to help someone they care about.
A helpful character may struggle with balancing their own needs and desires with those of others.
Emotions Associated With Being Helpful
Here are some ideas for emotions your helpful character may experience:
Willingness to assist
Facial Expressions Linked to Being Helpful
Here are some facial expressions your helpful character may exhibit:
Tilting the head in interest
Open body language
A relaxed and calm facial expression
A slight raise of the eyebrows
A soft, reassuring touch
Friendly eye contact
A nod of agreement
Body Language Associated With Being Helpful
Here is some body language your helpful character may exhibit:
Open arms and palms facing up to convey openness and willingness to help
Offering a hand or assistance with tasks
Taking time to explain and offer guidance or advice
Leaning forward and maintaining eye contact to show interest in the person's needs
Using a gentle tone of voice and avoiding harsh or critical language
Nodding and smiling to show agreement and encouragement
Active listening and responding with empathy and understanding
Showing patience and calmness in challenging situations
Behaviors Related to Being Helpful
Here are some behaviors your helpful character may exhibit:
Offering support and encouragement
Providing useful advice and resources
Respecting others' perspectives and decisions
Taking the time to explain things clearly
Willingness to listen and understand others' problems
Showing kindness and generosity
Taking initiative to help without being asked
Being patient and empathetic
Being reliable and trustworthy
Growth and Evolution of Helpful Characters
Here are some ways that your helpful character may grow and evolve over time:
Becoming more patient and understanding
Learning to communicate effectively and listen actively
Overcoming their own biases and prejudices
Taking on more responsibility and leadership roles
Becoming more self-aware and reflective
Learning to set boundaries and say no when necessary
Developing better problem-solving skills
Learning to delegate tasks effectively
Becoming more empathetic toward others
Helpful Character Stereotypes to Avoid
Try to avoid writing stereotypical helpful characters like these examples:
The helper who is too controlling and doesn't allow others to make their own decisions
The helper who is too pushy or always imposes their help on others
The helper who is too preachy or always gives unsolicited advice
The "perfect" helper who never makes mistakes or has flaws
The helper who is overly sentimental or sappy
The helper who is too needy and always needs validation for their actions
The helper who is too passive and doesn't take action when needed
The helper who is too self-righteous and judgmental of others' actions and decisions
The helper who is too naïve or gullible and easily manipulated by others
Negatives of Being Helpful
Here are some potential negatives of being helpful. Note: These are subjective, and some might also be seen as positives depending on the context.
Struggling to set boundaries and say no to requests for help
Being taken advantage of by others who do not reciprocate the help
Being perceived as pushy or intrusive when offering help
Becoming overly involved in other people's problems and neglecting one's own needs
Being criticized or blamed if the help provided is not successful or does not meet expectations
Feeling overwhelmed or drained from constantly giving help without taking breaks
Positives of Being Helpful
Here are some potential positives of being helpful. Note: These are subjective, and some might also be seen as negatives depending on the context.
Being helpful can build positive relationships with others.
Helping others can make a positive impact on the world and contribute to a greater good.
Being helpful can also improve one's communication and problem-solving skills.
It can increase trust and respect from others.
It can lead to personal growth and development.
Helping others can enhance one's sense of purpose and fulfillment.
Verbal Expressions of Helpful Characters
Here are some potential expressions used by helpful characters:
"I'm happy to lend a hand."
"What can I do to make things easier for you?"
"I'm here to support you."
"How can I assist you?"
"Is there anything I can do to help?"
"I'll do what I can to help you out."
"Don't hesitate to ask for help if you need it."
"Let me know if you need any help."
"Just say the word, and I'll be there to help."
Relationships of Helpful Characters
Here are some ways that being helpful could affect your character's relationships:
Nonjudgmental attitude toward others' mistakes or shortcomings
Openness to feedback and constructive criticism
Empathy and the ability to put oneself in another person's shoes
Supportive and encouraging behavior to help others achieve their goals
Willingness to collaborate and work as a team
Respect for others' opinions and perspectives
Willingness to lend a hand or provide assistance when needed
Honesty and transparency in communication
Willingness to share knowledge and resources
Examples from Books of Characters Who Are Helpful
T'Challa/Black Panther from the Marvel Comics series by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
Sherlock Holmes from the series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Writing Exercises for Writing Helpful Characters
Here are some writing exercises you might try for learning to write helpful characters:
Write a scene where your character has to make a difficult decision between helping someone else and taking care of themselves. How do they weigh their options? What factors do they take into consideration?
Explore the limits of your character's helpfulness. Are there situations where they might be too helpful, to the point of being overbearing or intrusive? Are there situations where they might need to hold back in order to allow others to learn and grow on their own?
Brainstorm a list of scenarios where your character can demonstrate their helpfulness. This can include small everyday acts of kindness or larger, more significant gestures.
Consider the impact that your character's helpfulness has on those around them. Do they inspire others to be helpful as well? Do they sometimes sacrifice their own needs in order to help others?
Experiment with writing from different perspectives to see how your character's helpfulness is perceived by others. For example, you could write a scene from the point of view of someone who is initially skeptical of your character's helpfulness or someone who is inspired by it.
Start by identifying what motivates your character to be helpful. Is it a sense of duty? Compassion? A desire for recognition? Write a brief character backstory to explore this.