Book Review: Dr. Linda N. Edelstein’s Writer’s Guide to Character Traits, 2nd Ed.

Posted July 1, 2013 by Kathy Davie in

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Dr. Linda N. Edelstein’s Writer’s Guide to Character Traits, 2nd Ed.

Writer's Guide to Character Traits, 2nd Ed.

on August 9, 2006 and has 384 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Edelstein calls this “a crash course in psychology for writers with information about personality and behavior to create believable and authentic characters”.

My Take

I liked the differentiation Edelstein offers between character and traits. A good difference to keep in mind when creating your character while reminding the reader, er, I mean, the writer — you, that these groupings are not set in stone.

“Dorothy Parker was right: ‘People are more fun than anybody.'”

While Edelstein remembers once in awhile to point out the ways in which a writer can use this information, it’s mostly a psychological analysis of individuals in all sorts of situations from babyhood to adults; the effects of illnesses and all sorts of disorders along with deviations from the norm; types of criminality, romantic partners, age, maturation, group dynamics, sexual behaviors, family inter-relationships, how people cope, and occupational and group types.

It includes a chapter on physical appearances and nonverbal/verbal communication, i.e., body language and facial expressions as well as a short bit on the difference between male and female traits of communication. But I don’t know why Edelstein bothered to include this. There really isn’t much in this particular chapter.

My favorite chapters are the first and second as they have the most useful information in helping a writer create a sense of real people whom your readers can accept, believe in — whether for good or ill! How roles, situations, and relationships influence traits and vice versa. She notes the differences between adults and children whose “personalities are not yet fully formed” — a good distinction to keep in mind. And Edelstein reminds us — just often enough — that the categories are not exclusive nor inclusive.

Chapter four is rather terrifying — parents might consider reading this chapter just to help themselves keep an eye on their own behaviors!

There’s an interesting section on using recovered or false memories to create conflict.

About halfway through Writer’s Guide to Character Traits, I was getting rather skeptical about how to use this mass of information. I thought I’d have to be flipping back and forth hunting for how to pull the bits in the various chapters together to create my character, but then I got to chapter 14 and my prayers were answered. Edelstein has an index of traits and the types of disorders or situations in which you could expect to find it. It still involves flipping back and forth, but at least this chapter tells you where to flip!

Overall it’s an interesting book, but I’m not sure it’s worth buying. Check it out at the library first.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a colonial blue with black text and a slash of white puzzle pieces across the background with an eye in black.

The title indicates for whom the book is written and its contents: a Writer’s Guide to Character Traits.