September 23, 2011

Guest Post: Agreeableness in YA Characters (OCEAN #4)

This is the fourth in the series of guest posts about personality traits in YA characters from Najela of Brave New Adventure! She's talked about openness, conscientiousness, and extraversion in her previous posts.

A stands for agreeableness which refers to people who are pleasant and friendly, and well, agreeable. Agreeableness, like extraversion, seems to be incredibly varied and situationally based. People who are on the opposite end of the spectrum tend to be less pleasant and friendly, but that doesn't mean that they aren't or can't be. In nearly all of the personality traits, these are just the natural tendency that people tend to fall into. None of these are fixed.

Agreeable characters in young adult novels are typically going  to the generally nice and relatable characters, pleasant to be around, relatively sociable, and fun to be around. They might be the people pleasers, the ones who can never say no, or sacrifice themselves for other people in the story. Most characters in young adult novels have to have a certain level of agreeableness, not many people want to read about overtly rude or unpleasant people. Not to say that characters can't be rude, but most people read characters that could be real people. So they can have their moments, but if a characters were unexplicably rude for no reason, a reader might be turned off and ultimately put the book down.

Characters who don't start off agreeable, the crux of their conflict is to be more aggreeable. And vice versa. Some of my favorite examples of this trait are shown in Bianca from The Duff and Anna from Anna and the French Kiss.

I chose Bianca because she's cynical, sometimes rude and mean, and definitely not always agreeable as far as traits are concerned. She's been burned by love before and is hesistant to start a new love. She's not very nice to anyone, but experiences with her parents divorce, using sex as a distraction, and taking her friends for granted allow her to mature and see the error of her ways. She's still not completely aggreeable, nor does she have to be, but she is more aggreeable to the people in her inner circle-- her parents, her friends, and a certain special someone.

I choose Anna because she is generally aggreeable, pleasant to be around, friendly and charismatic (when she finally gets comfortable with everyone), but she goes through periods of time when she closes herself off to people who care about her and doesn't see the people who are willing to talk with her about her problems (there's one scene in particular where Anna is confronted by her other friends that she ignored during some of her rough times that sticks out to me). After Anna survives her ordeal and *spoiler alert* gets the guy, she is back to her old self, but wiser, and more mature.

As with the previous post, think of how this trait would interact with other traits. What about a character who is low on conscientiousness but high on agreeableness? How do you think they would act? Think about some of your own characters or your favorite characters in books? How do you think they'd fair on the agreeability scale? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Najela is a recent graduate from UC Riverside with a dual degree in Psychology and Creative Writing. She is actively trying to combine the two majors while working as a Behavioral Interventionist for children that have autism. She is current pursuing a Master's Degree in Exceptional Student Education and working on an illustrated college guidebook set to release hopefully by (late) November 2011. You can follow her at her website or her tumblr. 

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on agreeableness as a trait in YA characters, Najela!

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