Najela from Brave New Adventure is stopping by the blog today with her second guest post on personality traits! To read the first post on openness in YA characters, go here.
In continuing with the psychology of character or OCEAN, today is for C. C stands for conscientiousness, which refers to attention to detail, conscious decision making (thinking before they act) . Someone who is high on conscientiousness may be a perfectionist, but have a good work ethic and dependable. Someone who is low on conscientiousness probably jumps into situations without thinking through them.
In my opinion, I do not think many characters in YA novels are high on conscientiousness. The prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain involved with decision making, is not fully developed at this age. This is why teenagers tend to make poor choices. It's really inevitable that a character will make a bad choice. Characters should make bad choices, it makes them flawed, it makes them human. Just because a character is high on conscientiousness doesn't mean they still don't make bad choices. They may be more inclined to think the situation over beforehand and still go ahead and make the wrong decision.
Characters low on conscientious may not think through there actions. The conflict of this character may be learning to think of the consequences of their actions or to be come more self-aware. A character who is high on conscientiousness may think too much on their actions. The conflict of this character may be to learn to not analyze situations and jump in. There are many characters that fall on the range.
In looking through my reviews for a character that represents this trait, I thought of Marcelo from Francisco X. Stork's Marcelo in the Real World. Marcelo, in my opinion, is highly self-aware and is incredibly perceptive and particular about the way he keeps things and goes through his routine. He knows what he can do, but in this course of the story he learns his limitations and his strengths. I think its an interesting look at conscientiousness because we have a character who is thought to have a condition that affects his level of self-awareness (the book never explicitly says but it's a form of autism/aspergers). And yet, it turns out, he is one of the most conscientious characters in the novel because he constantly thinks through his actions and the implications of what he does. The struggle of the novel is whether he is going to do what is right or do what is easiest. I chose Marcelo because he seems to embody the trait, but also subvert it by being subjected to situations that is not black and white.
As mentioned in the last post, think about Tolstoy's theory of shading. How would conscientiousness play with other traits such as extraversion or agreeableness? How do these traits play out in the course of the story? Does it help or hinder your characters?
Discussion: Do you know any characters in books that are high or low on conscientiousness? What about your characters, how would they rate? Share your thoughts!
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, Najela, for this interesting look at conscientiousness (or the lack thereof!) in YA characters.