You know those characters that are constantly referred to so smart or so capable or so sensitive (etc. etc.) by other characters or in the narration? And every time it comes up you find yourself shaking your head or rolling your eyes because the character in question either is as bland as boiled potatoes or constantly acts in ways that contradict those claims without explanation?
That’s what is commonly called an “informed trait”. You’re told the character is a certain way (or has a certain ability), but there is more or less nothing in the text to back that up.
It goes the other way around, too, with informed flaws that are supposed to make a character more relatable or interesting – think almost every romantic comedy leading lady who is supposedly “shy” and “clumsy”, but in a cute, endearing way that only ever comes up when the plot asks for it.
It’s frustrating, distracting, incredibly dull and at times downright insulting to the reader to encounter a story where one or more characters have a bad case of this, but unfortunately, it’s a pretty common weakness even in otherwise strong, well-written stories with interesting and complex character concepts.
Since characters and how the reader feels about them (whether they are supposed to relate to them, look up to them or feel repulsed by them) can really make or break a story, informed traits are an easy trap to fall into and many a writer’s Achilles heel.
So, how to avoid them?
This is where the trusty old “Show, don’t tell” comes in. You have most likely been told before that it’s usually better to go for subtlety and leave something to the reader’s imagination than to spell it out, and that is true.
It’s challenging to imply something without outright saying it. You have to get creative with the details you want to put into your story to get a point across by relying on your audience’s ability to read between the lines, and while it’s absolutely worth it to go the extra mile, you also run the risk of making your narrative too stilted and contrived instead.
However, there is a fairly simple trick to make your characterization feel more natural and insert it into the story smoothly:
Stop thinking of your characters as possessing certain traits and start thinking of their personalities as a collection of habits, preferences and specific abilities.
It might not sound like that big of a difference, but it will make translating your character traits into text much, much easier and save you a lot of trouble while editing.
- A “smart” character
This can mean a lot of things. You could have a character who is booksmart, learns quickly, reads a lot, can retain information easily and access it when needed, but has trouble applying theoretical knowledge in real life, someone who entertains their friends by telling them about weird facts and trivia, someone who can still recite poems they had to learn by heart when they were ten, someone with a tendency to talk in such complex run-on sentences they frequently forget what they were talking about half-way through.
Or you could have a character who is good at problem-solving instead, who likes puzzles and riddles, who gleefully obsesses over odd problems to find even odder solutions, but thinks so far out of the box in order to remain engaged in their current task they often miss the forest for the trees.
- A “brave” character
Try to instead make a character who can never resist a challenge, who is a thrill-seeker and went bungee jumping about a dozen times already, who enjoys dragging their friends on the most dangerous looking rides in an amusement park and endlessly teases them about how pale they went afterwards. Make someone who simply cannot stand by when they see someone else get bullied, someone with a collection of scars they wear proudly and a story to tell about each one.
- A “shy” character
Forget about characters who blush prettily when spoken to and that’s it. Instead, write about a character who can’t make eye contact without forcing themselves to, who stumbles over their own words when talking to strangers, who is afraid of wearing bright colours because it might draw attention to them, someone who is humble and polite, but distant and comes across as cold or uncaring because they have tendency to hide their insecurity by retreating into themselves, even though seeming rude is the last thing on their mind.
Insert these habits into the story wherever they fit best. Be consistent in the portrayal of your character’s behaviour, even as character development kicks in. Adjust deliberately, but reasonably. After all, old habits die hard, so having your character break with one, however minor, can be a powerful moment with just as much emotional resonance as a flashy, dramatic scene meant to convey the same sentiment, and any “big” scenes will likely feel more organic if the reader has already seen traces of the necessary character changes before.
“Stop thinking of your characters as possessing certain traits and start thinking of their personalities as a collection of habits, preferences and specific abilities.”
Looks like DC finally got tired of people saying that Dick Grayson was too angry in Titans, and they wrote a whole article breaking down both Dick Grayson’s history and why Dick’s personality is more complex than just a happy-go-lucky, guy.
You can read the whole article here titled “Robin’s rage is nothing new” which is a pretty good read that goes over the various developments in Dick’s personality and presence in comics over the years. It’d recommend giving it a go, but anyways, here’s a quick overview!
- During the Golden age, Dick/Robin was originally created to 1) allow Batman to have someone to talk to (because writers at the time were still figuring out the medium, and they needed a secondary character for Batman to be able to talk about parts of cases to aloud), and 2) he was introduced as a kid to bring in younger readers
- It was around the time of the campy/silly Batman ‘66, with Burt Ward portraying Robin, that he began to be a bit of a lighter presence in comics also. However,
- right before Crisis on Infinite Earths, Dick dropped the campy routine, and became a more grounded persona. He had a falling out with Batman after he was fired and replaced by Jason Todd, and over this period he was quite angry in general.
- Dick of course dosn’t stay angry for long, and he repairs his relationship with Batman after Jason dies/Tim becomes Robin, but the article really sums up he connection between his anger and what drives him to be the more light-hearted Nightwing that we know with this quote:
- “One of the biggest foundational elements of his modern personality was a constant tug-of-war between the optimism he wanted to represent and the bleak pragmatism Batman had instilled in him growing up.”
- It also goes on to talk about Dick’s time in The Outsiders and a couple of other times when he had to completely cut himself off from others and gone lone-wolf.
But basically, the point of this post is that if you’re wondering why the Dick Grayson/Robin of the tv series isn’t quite the person you’re familiar with yet, it’s not because Robin is written out of character, it’s because he’s in a transitional period marking his development into a more optimistic one.
Wait, is this…? I had never noticed this
realisation of Steve not needing his help anymore
was this really necessary
It’s also Bucky being more than a little upset that they turned his gentle, harmless friend—who Bucky wanted to PROTECT from the horrors of war—into a fighting machine.
was that really necessary
it’s also Bucky realizing that he can no longer protect his best friend no matter how hard he tries. he’s utterly helpless now, even after the war is over. they’ll always be wanting steve to fight this or that, and bucky won’t be able to do a darn thing to protect him.
It’s also Bucky taking the 5 seconds he has of Steve not paying attention to him so he can allow himself to process all these emotions without worrying Steve. If you watch Bucky through the movies, you’ll notice he always makes sure to look like he’s 100% fine if other people are looking at him. Fighting with Steve, but smiling at their dates. Recently tortured, but walking confidently by Steve’s side. Basically a mess, but all “Let’s hear it for Captain America!” It’s a pattern, really. Even in the flashback in CATWS, you can see he looks a lot less confident when Steve isn’t looking at him than when Steve is.
Also, Seb has mentioned that researching WW2, what left the deepest impression was how quickly everybody dies. You get attached to someone only to watch their heads being blown up in front of you the next day. I’m sure this influenced how he chose to act this scene. Because you can bet by the time this scene takes place, Bucky has seen many people – hell, maybe even friends – die, and recently, he’s had to see his whole unit be killed or captured by HYDRA. This certainly plays a role here. It’s not just a general sense of “I can’t protect Steve anymore,” it’s more like “I don’t know if Steve will live till next week.” It’s very real, very immediate. It’s a concrete prediction more than a vague fear. And if Steve’s survives, there’s still the fact Bucky knows what’s like to be changed by war, and Steve will be changed by it, which Bucky certainly hates. Either way, he loses the Steve he knew, even more than he’s already lost, with the whole “Steve Rogers is suddenly a super soldier” deal.
I’d say this scene is wartime Bucky in a nutshell. He handles the entire crowd and this whole Captain America propaganda thing without hesitation, he smiles at Steve and makes sure Steve enjoys the moment instead of pulling some “I did my duty” bullshit, and only then he allows himself to be overwhelmed by the fear that comes with being able to think 48923740 worst case scenarios in two seconds. If we can trust interviews with cast and crew, this eventually becomes his role in the war, basically – he thinks fast and does his job protecting Captain America and the missions, he takes care of Steve on a personal level by shielding him from the worst of the war as much as he can, and only then, if there’s time and Steve isn’t looking, he thinks about how the war is affecting him.
But anyway, overall, this scene is about overwhelming loss of everything Bucky knows, as well as an attempt to hide this as well as he can. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in the 4th and 5th gifs, Seb looks a lot like comics!Bucky does when he says goodbye to his younger sister, thinking he’ll never see her again and almost breaking down in tears, but unwilling to show her he’s scared. For your reference:
WAS ANY OF THIS REALLY NECESSARY
I’m actually really curious what would you say are Steve’s core characteristics? I’m honestly not sure what I think that they are because a lot of my thoughts on Steve are tied up with how he interacts with other people. But who is Steve? What would you are say are his major values? What are his flaws?
Bewared – a lot of this comes from YEARS and YEARS of comics.
First of all Cap is DETERMINED. He never gives up, he always stands up. It really
is Steve’s actual super power, his absolute refusal to ever call it quits.
He’s a good man. No
REALLY, he is. One time, Magneto tried
to erase his mind of all prejudice towards Mutants – only to find out that Cap
didn’t have ANY towards mutants or anybody else. Steve is dedicated to his morals
and ideals. He personified “Honor Before Reason” and because of this he’s
ALWAYS been seen as the moral center of the Marvel Comics Universe. (See “The Ballad of Captain America’s
Disapproving Face” by the Murder Ballads. “If you can’t tell the
Captain what you’re damn well up to, then don’t damn well get up to it at all!”)
As has been noted by MANY, he’s Neutral Good since he puts
“good” above “law”, and he defends American ideals more than
American laws. He’s “loyal only to the dream”!
He’s extremely team oriented – though he’s invariably the team
leader (more on that later) of any team he is part of, he treats them more like his family and it’s known to one all and all that he NEVER leaves a team member behind. He’ll put the mission first but he always comes back for those left behind. The rescue of Team Cap from the Raft was CLASSIC Cap behavior.
He’s always a gentleman, usually humble, invariably kind and
He is the undisputed, tactical genius of the Marvel
Universe. And the DC universe for that
matter. In the Avengers/JLA cross-over
event, Captain America was nominated by SUPERMAN to command the all of the
heroes of both universes. Using Martian
Manhunter’s telepathic mindlink , he organized and lead the ENTIRE combined
force, turning them into a well-honed, fighting machine – and he made it look easy. Thus demonstrating why Captain America is
still one of the greatest Team Leaders ever.
His faults come from many of his strengths, he’s EXTREMELY stubborn,
he never let’s ANYTHING go – long past when he should. He cannot compromise in any way, shape or form – not even when the fate of the world
hangs in the balance, and “honor before reason” is all too often “death before
If I may also add another reason Steve is so great is that he sees the world, the good and the bad.
He isn’t as naive as many people think he is.
So he sees what’s wrong with the world and rather then let the bad wear him down or turn him cynical he keeps standing back up. His persevence in the face of negative stuff is really admirable.
WHEDON HOW CAN YOU SAY HE HAS AN EGO DO YOU NOT SEE THIS SHIT. DO YOU NOT SEE HIM LOOKING PHYSICALLY UNCOMFORTABLE BECAUSE OF THE CAMERA DO YOU NOT SEE THE REST OF THE COMMANDOS NOT GIVING TWO SHITS ABOUT THE CAMERA BECAUSE THEY HAVE BIGGER THINGS TO THINK ABOUT AND STEVE IS THERE THINKING “SHIT SHIT DON’T LOOK AT ME DON’T TRACK ME I DON’T WANT TO BE THE ARMY’S DANCING MONKEY I WANT TO DO SOME GOOD, QUIT FOLLOWING ME”
“A MATCH OF EGOS” WITH TONY STARK WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL
#I’m fairly sure Steve was ashamed of his time with the USO#not in the sense that he was doing anything wrong#but that he could have been doing so much more#So much happened while he was on tour#the Allies took Sicily in the biggest amphibious operation to date#he knows now what he can do#how he can help#and instead he was dancing in tights#I think it eats at him#could he have made a difference?#could he have saved lives?#and every time he sees a camera he’s reminded of being on stage#of making those films#of being safe when he should have been out there fighting (via boopboopbi)
Headcanon where Bucky used to “accidentally” damage newsreel cameras to make Steve feel better.
bucky in fic: steve u asshole u could’ve been killed! what were u thinking? let me bandage u up and get u a nice cup of tea, i love u so much
STEVE: To be used a weapon against your will…I can’t imagine how hard that must have been.
BUCKY: U GONNA LEARN
This keeps showing up on my dash and I have to reblog each time, because “U GONNA LEARN” never fails to make me lose my shit.
For real though: the fics and the movie are both the real Bucky Barnes. Cause only you get to pick on your person. If someone else shoved Steve through a window, you know Bucky’d have his foot so far up that person’s ass they’d be tasting his shoelaces.
Steve: Remember that time in Azzano when I threw you over that fiery pit?? You throwing me at the cops. That wasnt payback, was it?
Bucky: Now why would I do that?
One of the things I loved the most about Steve in Civil War was his line about the U.N. “And they’re just people with agendas, and agendas change.” This is something that drives me insane in American politics, and just politics in general: the idea that government is inherently better at making morally-right decisions than the average person is. To put it as my Irish ancestors likely would, that’s a bunch of malarkey. Governments are made up of people who at the very least are as flawed as the rest of us, if not more.
This is a recurring theme in the movie, and showcases a difference in Tony and Steve’s personalities and experience. Tony tries to appeal to Steve with those pens that FDR used in an attempt to cash in on nostalgia; because Tony is looking back at World War II through the common modern-day lense of “look at ‘Merica beating back those Nazis and saving the world, it’s a darned good thing the government took action back then, huh?” and assumes that Steve feels the same way. But Steve lived through World War II, and he saw what governments–including the U.S. government–did. You think he was A-okay with A cards, rations, and internment camps? You think he was completely cool with the draft? He probably disagreed with a lot of crap the government did back then. Heck, the government had him selling war bonds and propaganda in a felt outfit. He disobeyed orders constantly back then, because his orders were wrong. That’s who Steve is, and it’s not at all surprising he would behave this way. But again, looking back and not actually being there, Tony (and Coulson, and Fury, and just about everyone) thinks of Steve as Mr. American Values. Which he is, but not necessarily Mr. U.S. Government Values.
This is the main reason I think Steve was in the right the entire conflict. Most of Tony’s actions in the film seem to be based purely on his emotions. He pushes for the Accords because he is guilty over the people who have gotten killed because of his actions. He tries to keep the team together even though sometimes it’s better to be separate on principle than together in tolerance of wrong (let alone unconstitutional) lawmaking. He attacks Bucky because he’s angry about his parent’s death and Steve keeping it from him–which, yeah, he has a right to be upset, but attacking them both and basically trying to kill Bucky without giving him a chance to explain himself, let alone stand a fair trial?? His actions can be explained, but not justified.
This. A fundamental difference (one of many) between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark: Tony is accustomed to being able to set – and change – the agenda at many levels. Steve is accustomed to being used by the agenda from many levels.
^^^^ SO MUCH THIS.
#HE LOOKS SO DARK HERE#THIS IS THE FACE OF A MAN WHO ISN’T JUST CAPABLE OF KILLING#IT’S THE FACE OF A MAN WHO WANTS TO KILL#HE WANTS TO KILL THE RED SKULL#THE MAN RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CREATION OF HYDRA#HYDRA WHO JUST TOOK THE LOVE OF HIS LIFE FROM HIM#AFTER BUCKY FELL STEVE WENT FROM ‘I DON’T WANT TO KILL ANYONE’#TO ‘I WON’T STOP TILL ALL OF HYDRA IS DEAD OR CAPTURED’#KILLING IS HIS FIRST THOUGHT#AND YOU CAN SEE IT HERE#STEVE’S DARK SIDE IS HOW FAR HE WILL GO TO PROTECT AND AVENGE BUCKY#IT ALWAYS HAS BEEN#FROM THE VERY BEGINNING#Steve Rogers#Steve’s Dark Side (via @stevetopsbuckysbottom)
While I was originally intending to (finally) get around to doing meta on Alexander Pierce and the way they use lighting and framing, I was taking screenshots, and noticed something about this scene that I had never noticed before.
This whole scene is a masterclass in mirroring. Usually, this is when one person subconsciously mimics another person’s gestures, expressions, and movements. It’s often so natural, a picking up of non-verbal cues, that both the person mirroring and the subject don’t even notice. Psychologically speaking, it gives the impression of closeness and similarity, and encourages a stronger connection between two people.
In this case, Alexander Pierce is doing it deliberately. This whole scene is about him trying to gauge whether Steve trusts him. And quite frankly, I find it fascinating because not only does Pierce have a similar look to Steve, but he’s closer to his age than anyone else Steve has worked with.
But anyway, back to the scene. From the very first moment of their interaction, Pierce is testing him:
“It’s an honour.”
“The honour’s mine, Captain. My father served with the hundred and first.”
He’s verbally laying down the ground work to suggest they are similar, equals, coming from the same background. This is a foundation he needs to build a strong case against Fury. If he can ensure Steve is on his side, then it will make things a lot easier.
He starts on what seems like a friendly note, telling Steve old, little-known stories about Fury to gain his trust. This is where he starts the physical mirroring, matching Steve’s position on the seat: we’re friends here. Look at us, talking like friends.
And this is the point where he thinks he is gaining Steve’s confidence, so he moves onto stage two: planting seeds of doubt about Fury. First, he talks about the bugging, then about Batroc, and the source of the funding for Batroc’s mission. All the while, he keeps casually imitating Steve’s body language: turning when Steve does, folding his hands in front of him, resting his arms on his knees. It’s casually done, but very deliberate.
It’s only when Steve shows his faith in Fury that Pierce withdraws to regroup. And here’s the interesting thing: this is the one moment when Steve mimics Pierce by getting up, which shows that he is responding to Pierce’s cues and words, by keeping them on the same level (physically, at least).
I also love the fact that Pierce very deliberately goes and places himself by the window, framing himself in light. The lighting in this moment (and really, in any scene when Pierce is still acting as a benevolent force) could not be more apt. He’s casting himself as the illuminated leader.
He has also returned to the point of Nick being an ally, a similar person to him. He has realised that Steve will not accept Nick as a traitor, so now he intends to play the loyal-friend card and try and get information out of Steve that way. And his stance by the window, leaning against the glass, the world-weary expression, the “I know what it’s like” – it’s all carefully targeted. He’s making a point that he and Nick are similar in mentality and outlook, encouraging Steve to believe that Nick would want him to know everything.
When he turns back to Steve and sees Steve in his military stance, he mirrors him once more, hands to his waist. This remains the case for the rest of their confrontation, until Steve turns to leave. I’d never noticed this before, but the fact he matches Steve’s stance when he’s talking about being angry about losing someone important to him? Jebus on a cupcake, he is pretty much hitting Steve’s big red NOPE button.
He knows about Bucky (of course he does. He keeps him in a fridge downtown) and no doubt knows about all Steve’s other dead friends. He’s trying to make Steve empathise with him and see the similarities between them by bringing up a lost friend, and he does it all while imitating Steve’s body language like the creepy bastard he is. I am like you, Captain. We are the same. We have both suffered a loss and we are both angry about it. We can help each other.
And this is the trouble with Pierce: he sees the Captain America everyone else sees, the Cap from the museum exhibit. Steve might not have the capacity to be a spy, but he’s not stupid, and he can tell when he’s being played, especially the way Pierce has flip-flopped how he’s describing Nick.
That was Pierce’s mistake the whole time – he didn’t see that Steve Rogers was the kind of man who would disobey orders and storm a HYDRA base in the same way Nick Fury would disobey orders and rescue a group of hostages in Bogota.
Steve’s “he told me not to trust anyone” is the biggest “f*ck you and all you stand for” possible in the circumstances.
I am forever in awe of the nuance and complexity in the winter soldier, and stand by the conviction that is not a superhero film, it’s an espionage thriller that just so happens to have superheros in it