Using Your Fiction Character’s Pride


Pride can be bad

Pride can be bad

Pride is a powerful emotion that motivates us to do evil or good.  Sometimes it motivates us to do both–Pride for an evil reason can stimulate us do something that benefits others.

Look at some examples.  Scientific American’s article on pride talks about Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook, who did it to “to show up a girl who dumped him and the guys in Harvard‘s most elitist social club. The desire to prove he was smarter than them gave Zuckerberg the motivation he needed to start on a path toward becoming one of the world’s preeminent innovators.”

An evil desire to triumph over others that brings about a good end–Facebook.  (Good is arguable here, of course.)

What about in fiction?

Have we not seen the hand of pride behind many heroes and most villains?  Let’s take a look at some examples.

This is one of my favorite stories.

Here is a good passage from Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne.  The conversation is between Stuart and Mr. Fogg.  Note how pride motivates both men not to back down.

They are talking at a gentlemen’s club, while playing cards:

“I’d like to see you do it in eighty days.”

“It depends on you. Shall we go?”

“Heaven preserve me! But I would wager four thousand pounds that such a journey, made under these conditions, is impossible.”

Mr. Fogg, are you ready?

Mr. Fogg, are you ready?

“Quite possible, on the contrary,” returned Mr. Fogg.

“Well, make it, then!”

“The journey round the world in eighty days?”


“I should like nothing better.”


“At once. Only I warn you that I shall do it at your expense.”

“It’s absurd!” cried Stuart, who was beginning to be annoyed at the persistency of his friend. “Come, let’s go on with the game.”

“Deal over again, then,” said Phileas Fogg. “There’s a false deal.”

Stuart took up the pack with a feverish hand; then suddenly put them down again.

“Well, Mr. Fogg,” said he, “it shall be so: I will wager the four thousand on it.”

“Calm yourself, my dear Stuart,” said Fallentin. “It’s only a joke.”

“When I say I’ll wager,” returned Stuart, “I mean it.”

“All right,” said Mr. Fogg; and, turning to the others, he continued: “I have a deposit of twenty thousand at Baring’s which I will willingly risk upon it.”


This is a great example of pride in use.  Think about it.

Pride has motivated each of these men, and even caused Stuart to lose his cool.  And, each character’s pride has locked them into this result.  If either of these men changed their minds, what would they lose?

Their pride of course.

 This is another good example, from another great classic.

From the Hobbit (the book), this is one of my favorite scenes.  Let’s hope it is in the Hobbit movie as well.  The dragon’s pride drives him to prove to the hobbit, to which he has no need to prove himself, that he is, in fact, invulnerable.  His pride becomes his downfall when Bilbo sees the dragon’s weakness.

Bilbo’s is not immune, though.  His pride also goes to his head when he talks a little too much for his own good.

Let’s take a look:


Bilbo the Baggins

Bilbo Baggins by troubadour93

“I have always understood,” said Bilbo in a frightened squeak, “that dragons were softer underneath, especially in the region of the-er-chest; but doubtless one so fortified has thought of that.”

 The dragon stopped short in his boasting. “Your information is antiquated,” he snapped. “I am armoured above and below with iron scales and hard gems. No blade can pierce me.”

 “I might have guessed it,” said Bilbo. “Truly there can; nowhere be found the equal of Lord Smaug the Impenetrable. What magnificence to possess a waistcoat of fine diamonds!”

 “Yes, it is rare and wonderful, indeed,” said Smaug absurdly pleased. He did not know that the hobbit had already caught a glimpse of his peculiar under-covering on his previous visit, and was itching for a closer view for reasons of his own. The dragon rolled over. “Look!” he said. “What do you say to that?”

 “Dazzlingly marvellous! Perfect! Flawless! Staggering!” exclaimed Bilbo aloud, but what he thought inside was: “Old fool! Why there is a large patch in the hollow of his left breast as bare as a snail out of its shell!”

 After he had seen that Mr. Baggins’ one idea was to get away. “Well, I really must not detain Your Magnificence any longer,” he said, “or keep you from much needed rest. Ponies take some catching, I believe, after a long start. And so do burglars,” he added as a parting shot, as he darted back and fled up the tunnel.

 It was an unfortunate remark, for the dragon spouted terrific flames after him, and fast though he sped up the slope, he had not gone nearly far enough to be comfortable before the ghastly head of Smaug was thrust against the opening behind. Luckily the whole head and jaws could not squeeze in, but the nostrils sent forth fire and vapour to pursue him, and he was nearly overcome, and stumbled blindly on in great pain and fear. He had been feeling rather pleased with the cleverness of his conversation with Smaug, but his mistake at the end shook him into better sense.

 “Never laugh at live dragons, Bilbo you fool!” he said to himself, and it became a favourite saying of his later, and passed into a proverb. “You aren’t nearly through this adventure yet,” he added, and that was pretty true as well.

These are only two examples.

Bilbo running from Smaug

The price of pride

Look around.  You can see pride at work everywhere–in your life, house, job, and all over the TV.  And, of course, in fiction.

And why not?

Your characters will have pride, but it is how they handle it that shows their personality.  Are they cool like Mr. Fogg?  Or, are they full of fire like Stuart?  They might be a shy, meek person like Bilbo with hidden courage that brings out his pride.

Pride.  It has many forms.  Your characters have it.

Use their pride, and yours, well.

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