Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Toxic Personalities You Can Really Use

In 2009 I read a yahoo article entitled, 8 Toxic Personalities to Avoid (click for link). Naturally, the first thing I thought of was "Hey!--this info could be useful for my writing," and so I saved it in my Writing Documents folder. And then I proceeded to forget about it for 4 years. So today I'm going to trot out the basic ideas of this article to share how you can use these personalities in your writing.

As the article describes, these kinds of people are good to avoid. They are toxic to our happiness, self-esteem, and the overall quality of our lives. In a nutshell, here are the types:

1. Manipulative Marys. These types get you to do things you don't really want to.
2. Narcissistic Nancys. Folks who focus on their own needs at your expense.
3. Debbie Downers. People who have a pessimistic, glass-half-empty view of life.
4. Judgmental Jims. Those who find unique perspectives "wrong" and "disturbing."
5. Dream-Killing Keiths. Ones who remind you that your dreams are unachievable.
6. Insincere Illissas. People who you never can tell their true feelings; hard-to-read.
7. Disrespectful Dannys. These are subtle bullies who demean and show no respect.
8. Never-Enough Nellies. Individuals who take you for granted and are hard to please.

If you wish more detailed descriptions, please visit the original article.

You can probably think of a few people in your own life that fit the attributes of one or more of these toxic personalities. Avoid these people if you can, for the sake of your mental health! But as writers, we can utilize these kinds of characters in our stories. This list provides a gold mine of negative personalities that we can throw across our main character's paths to make him/her more miserable, his/her goals less likely to be achieved. The name of the game is conflict, right?

Well, with this list of personality types--hello, Conflict!

Using These Personalities
In our writing, we can develop these people types as our villains or antagonists. A parent. A best friend who unwittingly stands in your main character's way. A well-meaning but interfering teacher or uncle or grandparent. I can totally see a parent being manipulative, hard to please, dream-crushing, hard-to-read, or judgmental of a teen's interests and views.

You could even use a dash of some of these traits in your main character. Your MC needs flaws so they're not too perfect, right? Well, maybe for instance your character has a "downer" view of life, which gets in the way of his or her dreams. (Your antagonist can be "self against self," rather than someone external to herself.) Also, in a lot of teen novels, there's a prevailing habit of using "snarky" main characters, and I think snarkiness is often tied to being judgmental--the character has little tolerance for people who are different from him/herself, even though this snarkiness is often used for an outrageous, fascinating, or humorous effect.

Have you used one or more of these toxic personalities in your own writing?
Can you think of any other ways you could use these personality types?
Have you ever written a story where the main character was his/her own worst enemy--the antagonist? Did your MC have to overcome these toxic traits to be victorious?


  1. What a clever idea to use an article about people to avoid to help develop your fictional characters. Now off to check out the full article - thanks!

  2. Hi, Carol,

    Funny how I don't consciously think about characters like this, but yes, these are the individuals who people our novels. I should have a look at that article. Thanks.

  3. Nice! I'll have to check the link out when I have wi-fi again... Too bothersome to do so on my phone :)

    Yup, usually my characters are their own worst enemies ;)

  4. hehe, great traits to include in our characters! ;)

  5. Love these! My upcoming book has a Manipulative Mary and a Narcissistic Nancy. I love these flawed personality types as antagonists, because often the conflict they create is more subtle. And because we all have these kind of people in our lives, I think readers can identify with the problems they create for our mcs!

    great post, Carol! Thanks!!!!!!

  6. I also read that article.

    I've used some of these in my manuscripts. They make for interesting characters (pains in real life, though).

  7. That's a wonderful idea and a great list!
    I'm rereading all the Anne of Green Gables books at the moment and the villages she lives in are full of these types!

  8. The main character of my WIP is a downer, insincere, and narcissistic; hopefully, if the plot works out, she'll have tamed some of those traits!

  9. It's great to have a summary of those toxic characters! Definitely useful for writing.

  10. Good tips for personality traits of toxic characters!

  11. I haven't used these so purposely, but I do recognize a few characters of mine here. What a wonderful way to mix it up. Thanks for the link.

  12. Great resource information, Carol. Thanks!

  13. Theresa linked to this on Facebook and I'm so glad she did. Great lists and resources!

  14. Great resource, Carol! Sad thing is, I've known a few people with one or more of these traits that I've had to weed out of my life. Very useful for character building tho!! :D

  15. I love articles like this. Initially I think of my friends and family, and then inevitably my brain goes where yours did and I think of it as a fun craft tool. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Awesome post, Carol. There are several toxic people in my life who match some of these descriptions... I admit I've modeled more than one of my antagonists on those people.

  17. Wonderful post, Carol. Toxic personalities can make great characters. They cause headaches and drama that most readers can relate to (as unfortunate as this is).

  18. Carol, this post made me giggle. Only a writer would come across this article and figure out how to mine it for ideas. I think that is so awesome. I just bookmarked your post for future reference. :)

  19. oh, my mind went of to the people in my world instead of characters ! LOL Focus! I'm going to save that original post for future reference. - for my characters that is. Thank you! xx

  20. LOL. I just had a converstation with my kids about "frenemies," or as my oldest put it, an "arch fremisis." Great list of suggestions to build opposition and tension with characters.

  21. These are great ideas for antagonists. Thanks, Carol!

  22. This is a great list, Carol. I agree, mix these into a couple of characters who have to interact, and you have instant conflict for a story. Thanks for the share.


Hi, bloggy buddies! I respond to all comments via email if you have an address linked to your profile. Sorry, I have had to turn OFF comments from Anonymous users due to Spam.