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The Characters of Theophrastus Part 1

First ten out of Theophrastus’ 30 moral characters

One piece of advice you hear from seasoned writers is that your characters have to have multiple dimensions. And then you get confused. We try and create characters with all kinds of interests, a sum of many parts, but at the end of the day, they don’t seem that real nor familiar nor both. The ancient philosopher and polymath, Theophrastus took the other route. He separated real people and their defining moral characteristics into 30 separate categories. Now, I’m not saying that this is the route that you should take. But it is interesting to try and build a new character based on a solid, defined moral foundation. Naturally, you can also fuse, mix and match some of these 30 moral characters. In general, Theophrastus’ characters can be used as a shortcut when you are stuck and can’t really figure out who the characters in your next, novel, story or script should be.

Without further ado, here are the first 10 moral characters that Theophrastus distinguished.

1 The Ironic Man
A viper in the guise of a human. Someone who will take every single opportunity to use his words, in an equivocal way, to hurt others. He or she is never honest, always looking to one-up his opposition or enemies.

2 The Flatterer
Another dishonest moral character. A person who will dedicate themselves fully to their own gain. And they think and try, without stopping, to gain this advantage by flattering those who they see as their superior. For example, such a character, in our day, might be a sleazy politician who sucks up to party leaders.

3 The Garrulous Man
In short, this type of person enjoys chatting with strangers. But not with something important. They will take the most minute, the most basic thing in their life and portray it as something extraordinary.

4 The Boor
A Boor is a person who offends others, mostly out of ignorance. The person is prone to getting drunk and sharing their secrets with people they don’t know but are very suspicious of their friends and relatives.

5 The Complaisant Man
This sort of person is all friendly and lavishes others with compliments, but they do it for one reason and one reason only, they need you to do something for them. They rip their greedy and self-interested claws in you from far away, presenting themselves as lost, or innocent. But in reality, they are a wolf in sheep’s skin, ready to take advantage of you.

6 The Reckless Man
In our normal, day-to-day language we understand a reckless person as someone who puts their life in danger doing all kinds of adrenalin-related things. Theophrastus had a different meaning for that word. In his case, the reckless man signified a man who has no shame in what he does or what he says. For example, that person will gather a crowd to belittle others or set records straight after their vanity or pride had been hurt.

7 The Chatty Man
Plain and simple, a person who just doesn’t stop talking. Their mouth is an endless stream of words, but sadly rarely do those never-ending torrents of words combine in an interesting sentence or two.

8 The Gossip
A person who delights in spreading unproven, or even worse, improvable information that might harm the reputation of others.

9 The Shameless Man
This sort of moral character doesn’t care what they must do, as long as they get some sort of political, financial, or honorific gain out of you.

10 Penurious Man
Another word would be a miser. There are a lot of great comedies throughout the ages that had such a character as the foundation, the one by Moliere is probably the most famous of all. Simply a person who cares about their money, and that others don’t spend it. If such a tragic occurrence ever happens, such as they giving money away, they will feel immense pain for every single coin that left their miserable hand.

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