Medical Alert! Mass CPCS Outbreak!

December 14, 2009 at 9:34 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

CPCS: Chronically Passive Character Syndrome

Warning! CPCS can have serious health effects. Some cases have resulted in book fatalities.

If the following symptoms are present, seek immediate inner-editor advice.*

Signs and Symptoms in Characters:

  1. Character spends inordinate amounts of time sitting around, waiting for something to happen.
  2. Character frequently watches/listens to events unfold (often from a distance, a hiding place, or a confined space) without actively participating in or influencing the course of these events.
  3. Character continually goes along with what supporting characters want to do and doesn’t have (m)any ideas of his/her own.
  4. When supporting characters propose a course of action that Character doesn’t/shouldn’t like, Character makes only weak/inner protests before going along with proposed plan.

Signs and Symptoms in Readers:

  1. Boredom.
  2. Drowsiness when reading book.
  3. Tendency to misidentify supporting characters as main character and to care more about supporting characters than main character.

*The presence of some of these symptoms at some point in time does not necessarily indicate CPCS. Characters may have moments of passiveness without suffering negative health effects. Problems arise only when passiveness is prolonged.


  1. Make Character do something. For best effect, make Character do something that he/she believes will help him/her accomplish his/her goal. Make this something have consequences – good, bad, disastrous, whatever.
  2. If Character is in a situation that is forcing him/her to be passive and can’t escape this situation on his/her own, make something happen. Turn the situation on its head and allow/force Character to do something.
  3. Take away the people who usually save Character from having to do things him/herself. Some characters are chronically passive by nature. Going from passive to active can be a perfectly acceptable character arc, but to achieve this arc, certain measures must be taken.

CPCS is a serious affliction in books. However, once identified, it is entirely (if not always easily) curable.


– Becca Cooper (AKA Elusive)


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  1. THIS IS AWESOME! Fave blog post. Passive characters drive me nuts. You gave so many good tips, Becca – great job! (:

  2. Ooh. Interesting post.
    I’m starting to wonder if my MC is too passive. If I’m wondering, that’s probably not the best sign. I’ll have to do something about that fact.

  3. It’s SO funny that you posted this, since I’m spending the day rewriting a scene because the character took the passive way out and everything got boring. :D Becca, I think we are telepathically linked.

  4. Several secondary characters in my NaNo suffered severely from this, to the point that their scenes went something like:

    “I’m bored,” he yawned.

    “Me too,” she answered. Then they all sat around and did nothing.

    Not exactly, but pretty close.

    BTW, how can I join TWFT? I’m at the AW thread, too.


    This post is really helping me identify if any of my characters are too passive :)

  6. Glad you guys are finding this helpful! :D
    I’m slowly becoming an expert on CPCS. One of my MCs caught it and then ran around infecting all my other MCs. Apparently it’s contagious. XD

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