Character Type and Trope Thesaurus: Grotesque

From Writers Helping Writers:


DESCRIPTION: A grotesque is a character whose deformities mask their likable personality and arouse pity and sympathy from others. They have extreme physical or behavioral features that can be unsettling, disturbing, or even repulsive. Because of this, grotesques can challenge preconceptions of what is beautiful and acceptable.

FICTIONAL EXAMPLES: Quasimodo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), Frankenstein’s monster (Frankenstein), Erik/the Phantom (The Phantom of the Opera), the Beast (Beauty and the Beast), Edward Scissorhands (Edward Scissorhands)

COMMON STRENGTHS: Alert, Cautious, Creative, Curious, Focused, Independent, Intelligent, Introverted, Loyal, Observant, Passionate, Pensive, Perceptive, Persistent, Private, Quirky, Resourceful, Simple

COMMON WEAKNESSES: Antisocial, Callous, Compulsive, Hostile, Jealous, Judgmental, Morbid, Obsessive, Paranoid, Possessive, Resentful, Suspicious, Uncommunicative, Uncouth, Volatile, Withdrawn


  • Withdrawing from society and living an isolated life
  • Attempting to hide their deformity
  • Approaching new people and situations with caution
  • Expecting a negative reaction from new people
  • Obsessing about a person or ideal they perceive to be perfect
  • Obtaining a sense of connection by observing social interactions from a distance
  • Being alert to potential threats
  • Emotional volatility
  • Always keeping their guard up
  • Showing staunch loyalty to anyone who shows them kindness
  • Being possessive of a friend’s time and affection
  • Exhibiting extreme responses in socially awkward situations (shutting down, fleeing, lashing out physically, etc.)
  • Doggedly pursuing an objective that could soothe their pain
  • Making do with few resources
  • Having an active imagination and vibrant inner world
  • Fantasizing about what life would be like without their deformity
  • Being critical of others
  • Scorning the vanity of others
  • Suspecting that everyone is out to get them
  • Being slow to trust
  • Seeking revenge against those who have wronged them
  • Being driven to gain the advantages their deformity has denied them
  • Being morally corrupt


  • Discovering their actions have hurt someone they care about
  • Being approached by someone who seems to be seeking friendship or romance
  • Facing a new social environment full of strangers
  • Discovering their deformity has once again kept them from achieving a goal or gaining fulfillment
  • A friend going absent or radio silent
  • Being put on display or thrust into the limelight


  • Feeling lonely and isolated but being too afraid to pursue relationships
  • Meeting someone who sees the beauty of the character’s soul but being unable to trust them
  • Wanting to meet a mentor’s expectations but lacking the tools to do so
  • Wanting to accomplish a greater purpose but being hampered by their deformity
  • Wondering if they’re being punished for their deformity—because of a past mistake, a character failing, etc.
  • Achieving public validation but not seeing themselves as worthy
  • Having to choose between gaining respect or doing the right thing

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers