This is going to be another post that depends heavily on personal limits, standards, and perceptions. A person may be self-righteous to one group while totally acceptable by another. So, I’m going to try to avoid specifics here. It’ll be a general overview of the character throughout the week. Now, what is this type?
These are characters that act morally superior to others whether their ideals are unfounded or not. They can be very judgmental, egotistical, and occasionally narcissistic towards the rest of the cast. Many times, you will find this associated with religious paths, but that’s basically low-hanging fruit. Nobility too. The truth is that anyone can be used as a self-righteous character if they are written that way. For example, a character who grew up poor can act this way because they feel they have suffered so much that their world view is the only true one. People might have more sympathy for them or agree with them, but the self-righteousness is there.
As you can see, this is typically defined as a ‘negative’ trait because it’s demonstrated with a high level of smugness. They don’t listen to opposing views or change their opinions unless they are rocked entirely to the core. Most times, an author will have these characters either break, grow through great suffering, or turn traitor. This sounds like what you can do with any character, but the difference here is that nearly everything revolves around this self-righteous path. If you write one with it at a low level then you can develop a different arc, but this attitude taking up the forefront is something that needs to be handled. A lesser version could be them targeting one specific character as inferior and developing the friendship instead of having them anger everyone.
Within the group dynamic, these characters cause tension and it can be a challenge to make them gel. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it can help everyone grow, but readers are quick to turn off to the self-righteous figures. We don’t like being judged and have a limit on how much we can view others being judged. Oddest thing is that people are able to do the deed more often than they view it or are subjected to it. This makes me wonder if we turn on these characters so quickly because we either see ourselves or recognize a negative force in our lives when they act out. It’s a psychological layer that makes the use of such a character even more difficult.
Personally, I get annoyed by the self-righteous characters. They push my buttons far too quickly, so I have a hard time writing them. My instinct is to make them suffer and shed this trait soon after they appear. This ruins the characters and can jeopardize the entire story, so I only use them when I know they will work.
So, what do you think of this character? How about in real life?