Last week, I gave a definition and examples of what a ‘negative’ character is. As the name suggests, a negative character is one who has a bad view on life, failing to see good in those around them. We call these characters pessimists sometimes, but I don’t want to label them with such a severe title because negative characters don’t have to see the bad in everything. A traumatic experience could cause them to react a certain way (see my post ‘Writing From a Villain’s POV for more details on that subject), or perhaps they have lost something important to them and that caused them to behave a certain way.
The opposite of a negative character is what I also call ‘positive’ characters. These are the sort of characters we see in much literature today. They have a fairly good view on life and they want to do good for others. They don’t have to be the protagonists, just as the negative characters don’t have to be villains. They can be side characters, maybe an added character, or they could possibly be the hero, but this doesn’t exclude them into being just main characters.
When I think of a positive character, I imagine something like the Amity in Divergent. Their main focus in life is to be happy and give encouragement and comfort to those that need it. Parties and social gatherings are some of the things that keep them happy, and they actually enjoy life and all it gives them, good or bad. These are some traits of a positive sort of character.
But what do negative and positive characters have in common? They are polar opposites in many ways, sure, but there are also some similarities they share. Maybe they have similar experiences, and they just handled them in separate ways, or perhaps their views of life and humanity are the same, but the beliefs that they keep to themselves are relatively secret. The possibilities could be endless.
Now, the real question is: How do we add such characters into a storyline? What if you don’t want them to be the main characters? How do we handle that? There are also many options, but most authors tend to make these characters friends, bullies, or comrades they work with or know at school or in the neighborhood. For example, Pride and Prejudice uses many side characters that were important for the story, but weren’t really main characters. The story focused primarily on Lizzie and Mr. Darcy, and the sisters acted as either negative or positive characters depending on their personality.
So, negative characters are those who appear grumpy and slightly misanthropic and positive character act as comforters and encouragers, depending on the situation, and the possibilities for how you use them are endless. So feel free to use them as you wish! They’re yours to control.