the official website of
Bob Nailor




Being Negative, In A Positive Way

There are times when we, as writers, need to apply terms to our characters which don't necessarily match our current frame of mind. In other words, we want to say something negative but not let it become an overbearing term.

She is a nosey, mouthy, stubborn and very manipulative child.

Now, obviously, the above describes a young girl who definitely has some issues with society. Imagine yourself at an orphanage and you must somehow relate these "qualities" in a manner which will encourage prospective parents-to-be.

She is an inquisitive, expressive, quite determined and has the ability to get her needs met type of young lady.

Notice the difference? A more positive spin has been placed on the "less desirable" traits. It is like a real estate salesman who offers a cute, quaint cottage needing a little TLC for the fixer-upper type. What he is offering is a dinky shack of a hovel barely able to stand on its own. I was suckered to view a "rural, rustic lodge, can sleep up to 12 and has a grand vista" when I was looking for a home for my family. After a long, twisty dirt road trip and a barely visible driveway due to weeds, I was shown a dilapidated log cabin with 3 rooms: main and 2 bedrooms, each with 6 bunks - 3 on a left and right wall. Rustic? No bathroom, no kitchen. Vista? A mere 20 feet from the front door of the lodge was a sheer 50 foot drop cliff ledge one came in the back via the so-called driveway. In its defense, the lodge's full wall-end stone fireplace was awesome. But I digress. The bottom line was simple: positive spin on many negative aspects.

Therefore, the key to the right word is taking the negative aspect and putting on a positive twist when writing. Consider some of these words:

Sneaky -> Creative
Loud -> Exuberant
Foolish -> Playful
Demanding -> Assertive
Mean -> Controlling
Fussy -> Discerning Tastes
Quiet -> Reflective
Clingy -> Affectionate
Naughty -> Independent
Impulsive -> Spontaneous

The next time your character needs to be compulsive, instead, state that he or she is efficient or pays attention to detail.

Many writers will snag the first word that comes to mind when writing and then, when editing, will continue to accept that word when another positive word might be stronger and have a more vivid image to project.

Remember, are you being defiant? Or are you just holding strongly to your beliefs?




  Click to add a comment - say something!


~ COMMENTS ~

Scott Bury
2015-01-05
Putting the right spin on a situation is part of the writer's toolbox. Thanks for this perspective!
~ Reply to this comment ~

onisha Ellis
2015-01-05
Reminds me of the time I chaperoned a field trip. One fella was so loud I had him sit next to me. Death sentence to a middle school boy. His explanation? I'm not really being loud, my voice just carries.
~ Reply to this comment ~

Bob Nailor
2015-01-05
That is obviously a writer in progress... or else a lawyer. lol. Thanks for sharing.
~ Reply to this comment ~

Lisa M. Collins
2015-01-05
Bob! This subject is near and dear to my heart. I find that when I help authors with bios you have to weed out the negativity. The list is a great starting point.
~ Reply to this comment ~

Tamie Dearen
2015-01-05
I use this rule all the time when describing myself. I always choose the more "positive" adjective. I'm not stubborn, I'm determined. :D
~ Reply to this comment ~

Elyse Salpeter
2015-01-05
Oh, I love the word reflective! I'm stealing that. This is a great post. I do tend to use the first word that comes to me so I don't bog myself down, but I do try to take the time to "color" up the descriptions during editing time. Nice post.
~ Reply to this comment ~

Rebekah Lyn
2015-01-05
Oh this is great! I'm often trying to make descriptions less negative. I like the way you think.
~ Reply to this comment ~

Nichole Hall
2015-01-05
I love, love, LOVE this blog post! This was one I've been needing. Trying to write things that aren't always pleasant or easy to say and do it tastefully is hard. Thank you for your tips!
~ Reply to this comment ~

James Prescott
2015-01-06
Great points as ever Bob - love your wisdom!
~ Reply to this comment ~

Ms. Cheevious
2015-01-12
I've also seen this done the other way saying something like "It was terribly fancy" --- I can't remember what the term for that is, but it's awesome, and I love seeing it!
~ Reply to this comment ~