Saturday, 30 April 2011

ZEALOUS - Arlee's A to Z - characteristics

Chinese symbols for zealous - encapsulate the spirit of the word.

Zealous includes the concept earnest, enthusiastical, ardent, enthusiasm, zeal, eagerness and pathos.


Zeal is an intense, all consuming emotion.

This character:
  • doesn't care if he lives or dies
  • if he has health or becomes sick
  • if he has, or maintains, his wealth or if he loses all and becomes poor
  • doesn't care what others think or if others take offence
  • if people think he is wise, or foolish
  • if he gets blamed, or praised
  • whether he get honoured, or is heaped in shame

A zealous character cares nothing beyond the object of that zeal.

It is not enough to say that he is earnest, uncompromising, wholehearted and fervent. He only sees one thing, he cares for one thing, he lives for one thing, he is swallowed up in one thing. 

A zealous person makes an ideal antagonist because he is focused on the subject of his zeal to such an extent that nothing and no one is safe if it challenges the object of his ardent feelings

YOUNG CHILDREN - Arlee's A to Z - Characterisation


Young children appear to know the rules the conversation but discuss and debate is a little over their heads - it just is.

Young kids boast and no amount of persuasion can shift them from their-right to reality.

When young children are forced into close proximity there will be a split. The cautious wall-flowers will separate out – opt to move to the edges - and watch. The confident become a group – not a long lasting one. A leader will emerge, the others will jostle for the next important positions and the rest sort out the pecking order by posturing, shouting louder or being biggest and the most determined. At this point some of the initial wall-flowers will join the group now the uncertainty is resolved. Unsuccessful socialites will drift out and form their own group – they often become a shadow of the key group.

Conversation and play is a process of experimentation: trial and error. 

Observing them at play is like watching life on replay – young children mimic the adults who have influenced them: using mannerisms and whole sections of sometimes poorly understood language, they reflect the speech patterns, sayings and the values they have learned at home or school.

Unsupervised, smaller children will often react toward unfamiliar things either with aggression or fear where older children will investigate the unknown and try to make rational sense of it. 

Older children will try to find parallels between the unknown and the known. They will wait, discuss and think. Although there is usually one child acting on a more emotional compass who will want to hit out at the unknown object - just to see. 

Four year olds can and talk things through when encouraged. To family and friends, they can talk from sun-up to sun-down. However, when they are in new and unfamiliar settings they will opt for caution and they won't speak at all.

Young children are ruled by their basic needs. Their body is their primary environment - an endless source of fascination and amusement. 

Beyond themselves, young children need the security of the familiar: family, neighbourhood and school.

They have a unique field of vision – low and immediate. 

There is magic in everyday objects so their learning must be grounded in sight, sound and touch.


Stories for young children need :
  • familiar settings
  • strong plot
  • moral, brave and likeable heroes
  • obviously unlikeable villains
  • a real sense of danger
  • emotions
  • absentee adults 
  • basic enough language to encourage confident participation at first, and confident independent reading later - this does not mean that there should be no challenging vocabulary
  • shorter sentences
  • create revoltingly original insults

You're feeling?
yearning, yielding, youthful or yucky

Whatever happened to the month? Like badly pegged washing, one minute it was flapping around lazily and the next it was disappearing into the distance at an alarming speed. ;) I'm going to post z later in the day. 

Friday, 29 April 2011

X-MARKS-THE-SPOT - Arlee's A to Z - Characterisation

A lot can be inferred about the character from their placement. As you place the characters at the start of any pivotal scene you can reveal a little more about their character.

This is a positive but possibly blinkered position. A character in the centre and surrounded by others often can’t see the wood for the trees – they are consumed with current matters and not looking ahead

If your characters are placed higher that the others they have an advantage in terms of view.  This vantage point can suggest power, authority and aspiration.

When you position them geographically lower they appear vulnerable and powerless. This position can be useful to indicate caution and a rise in status later.

Like all good wall flowers know if the character is always at the edge of the scene it suggests insecurity and withdrawl – they get a good, if one dimensional view of a scene. This is the classic positioning for characters to misinterpret an event.


The German zoologist, H. Hediger, studied a range or different animals. He distinguished between:
flight distance (run boundary)
critical distance (attack boundary)
personal distance (distance separating members of non-contact species, as a pair of swans)
social distance (intraspecies communication distance)

Hall reasoned that, with very few exceptions, flight distance and critical distance have been eliminated in human reactions. Personal and social distance were still a constant in humans. He interviewed hundreds of people to determine modified criteria for human interactions.


The measurable distances between characters are important:

The distance of physical involvement: this can be measured in finger lengths: from actually touching to hands length away.

Personal space
The distance of friends and acquaintances tends to be arms length: one to four paces apart. People will stand this close even if there is an element of exclusion (this can be shown by having the uncomfortable character fidgeting or leaning away.)

Social space
These are the distances reserved for business acquaintances. This is a more formal distance.

Public distances
These are farther away than six paces. This can be shown in the direction each character is looking, the things that attract their attention.

How are you feeling? X-tremely anxious?

Xenophobic or  xoxo?   ;)

Thursday, 28 April 2011

WEAK CHARACTERS - Arlee's A to Z - Characterisation

Kind-of, how I feel but the
end is in sight ;)

Weak characters are generic, identikit people built around a name or a body type.

Weak characters are more about the role they play than the journey towards growth and self-fulfilment.

Strong characters are created from need.

Strong characters want something; they also want to avoid something - would do anything to avoid it.

Strong characters have a dark-something lurking (inside or beyond) that makes them rigid with terror.

Morally weak characters
            well-described but lacking substance     
One-dimensionally weak
            caricatures or archetypes - cardboard cut-outs

“What” (the action and the conflict) should be the seed from which the characters grow.

The interplay between the characters and the events continue to shape and modify the characters.

Well, now how do you feel?
wanted, warlike, warm-hearted, wary, weak, weary, weepy, weighted down, weird, welcomed, well, wild, wilful, winsome, wise, wistful, withdrawn, witty, woeful, wonderful, worked up, worn out, worried, worthless, worthy, wrathful, wretched, wronged

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


Character is not reflected by what we say, or even by what is intend, it is a reflection of what we do.- Anonymous


Values are the basic beliefs that determine our behaviour. Not all values are ethical, some are neutral or non-ethical.

Values fall into two categories:

Stated – what individuals say are important to them

Operational – what the character habitually does.

If the reader knows the character’s values they can predict how the character will react as the conflicts are heightened.

The values do not always need to be explained in full. If we follow the characters’ behaviour as it is revealed we can guess their values. 

Some values are taught by family, friends, schools or religions. 

Sometimes what organisations or individuals say they believe is opposite to what they actually practise. When this happens we call it hypocrisy.

What values does your character hold?

How do they conflict with other characters’ beliefs?

What values do the different social groups teach?

Consider where there could be inconsistencies and hypocrisy.

Ethics define moral rights and wrongs. They transcend culture, ethnicity, and are relevant to all socioeconomic conditions. Ethics are the “should” and the “ought” of life.

Morals are ethical principles. They are founded on fundamental principles of right conduct rather than legalities. Morals are always the same. Immorality varies from generation to generation.

These values are aligned to show values which often conflict.

Understanding                                              Strength

Growth                                                           Authority – bureaucratic

Cooperation – service                                 Control and power

Love of life                                                    Love of objects and order

Reflection                                                      Instant action

Sharing                                                          Possessiveness and ownership

Security by trust and knowledge                 Security by property

Intimacy important – reveals self                Inhibition of intimacy
and feelings

Perceptive and sensitive to people            Formalisation and 
                                                                        institutionalisation of
                                                                        intimacy and care

Reactions are sincere and human              Smiles are flashed 
                                                                         and overly polite

Not interfering, accepting yet caring           Interfering – must control 
and supportive                                               others

Change accepted as inevitable                  Hierarchy structure more important                

Change is desirable self loving                  Change and experimentation
                                                                       makes characters loveable

Value of individual importance                     Ritualised social standard of      
and values emphasised                                 dress,  procedure 
                                                                           and ceremony

Width of vision tends to be                           Narrow vision tends to 
 embracing  and analytical                             be prescriptive

Concern for truth and reality                        Concern for appearances

Poetic in thought and language                 Literal in thought 
                                                                       and language

Accepts all – understanding                       Narcissic – loves self and   
and tolerant                                                   likes self – rejects others

Non-material spiritual regard to life           Death, materialism, techniques and technology all      fascinate

Intrinsic motivation – faith in the                   Extrinsic motivation – gains are material
rightness of life, nature accomplishing
growth (providential.) Anything negative
or evil is always counter-productive

Human nature weak but good.                      Human nature believed to 
Human nature fails in self-asserting              be aggressive
patriarchal value system

Respects integrity                                          Respects physical looks

Love of life, sex, relating                                Love of sports, war, intrigue

Truth, essence, empathy, experience          Honour, pride, success, nationalism,
of self motivates in progress.                        pleasure – above are the most
Pain is lack of progress.                                noble feelings. 
Sorrow is rejection into aloneness.               Fear of failure motives.
Joy is unification within
the whole.    

Creative ie life is sustained                             Destructive self defensive 
                                                                            – conflict

Values symbolised by womanliness              Values symbolised by manliness

Vaguely, feeling?

vague, valourous, valued, vapid, vengeful, veracious, vexed, vicious, victorious, volatile, voracious, vulnerable

"If you know what your values are
If you know what your standards are
If you know what is important to you
If you have a point of view
Then you have a sense of direction.
Then you know where you are going."

                       ~ Mildred Newman

There is light at the end of the tunnel; never has the alphabet seemed so long ;)           

Tuesday, 26 April 2011


Unique characters are more than just a strong physical image. The basic description of the surface does not reveal the uniqueness of character.

To make a character unique create them with:
a special outlook
passionate feelings
a highly developed sense
unusual reactions to conflict

Through their inner monologue show the complexity a glimpse at the surface would never reveal:
show their unique outlook
their vulnerability
their reactions to their expanding knowledge
they way they come to conclusions about their dilemmas

The unique character has a way of expressing themselves that is fresh and original.

Unique does not have to be unusual or exotic. It should be grounded in their attitudes, beliefs, habits and quirks not tacked like a toupee to the shiny dome of stale and glib. 

Undeniably, feeling?
unafraid, unappreciated, unassuming, unbalanced, uncertain, uncomfortable, unconcerned, unconvinced, undaunted, understanding, under-whelmed, undeserving, undesirable, uneasy, unflinching, unforgiving, unfriendly, unfulfilled, unhappy, unhesitating, unimpressed, uninhibited, unique, united, unloved, unnerved, unpleasant, unruffled, unruly, unsafe, unsatisfied, unstable, unsure, unwavering, unworthy, unyielding, uplifted, upset, uptight, useless, usurped

Sunday, 24 April 2011

TEMPERAMENTS - Arlee's A to Z - Temperamental tendencies

Each of the four temperaments has a driving need.

Characters with melancholy temperaments fear of rejection and/or the unknown. They have low self-esteem. They reject others first before they can be rejected.
Characters with a supine temperament are driven to gain acceptance by liking and serving others. They have low self-esteem.
Characters with a sanguine personality are driven by the need for attention. They sell themselves using charm. To avoid rejection they accept others too readily. Their self esteem is resilient. Even if circumstances force a crisis of their esteem they bounce back determined to continue to impress others.
Characters with a choleric temperament are motivated by self-determined goals. Other people are seen as tools to be used in order to achieve their desires.
Characters with a phlegmatic temperament lack of a driving need except the need to preserve their low reserves of energy.
Temperamental, today?
taken aback,  temperamental, temperate, tenacious, tender, tepid, terrified, terrorized. Testy, thankful, threatened, thrilled, ticked off, timid, tired, tolerant, tormented, torn, tortured, touched, tranquil, treacherous, treasured, trepidation, triumphant, troubled, trusting

Peace and goodwill, Happy Easter to those who are celebrating.

Saturday, 23 April 2011


Social Traits

Everyone has a social character – they have been brought up to possess a set of common traits:
Hardship – breeds tenacious and steadfast spirit which could be seen as stubborn or obsessive or inflexible.

Times change.  

During years of war the people value particular ways of behaving – traits – ones that would help them survive.  Citizens within such an authoritarian hierarchy would see compliance as a positive response but showing initiative could be seen as threatening the greater good. There would be a need for caution, thrift, communal spirit and national pride.

In some societies family life is authoritarian. Obedience, devotion, respect for elders and “betters” ingrained and commanded. If a character were transplanted into a different type of society they would find it difficult to cope with children who are taught to question, to challenge even the smallest direction and only to respect when that respect is earned.

When an economy is thriving its people would show a different range of social traits. They would be expected to take risks, to have initiative, to sell themselves and consequently be driven to excess. The conspicuous consumerism and waste of resources on new, labelled, non-generic products necessary to show standing and affluence would disgust a character who had lived more frugally.

Those who embrace “green” concepts and are seeking to return to a more simple way of life that strives to minimise the imprint a society has on the planet – an holistic existence – would find themselves ridiculed and misunderstood.

Within the same society the differences are seen generational – a generational gap. When a group has learned its traits under a different set of conditions, and has trouble relating to or understanding another society, this is a cultural gap.

One group may describe the other as strange, ridiculous or quaint. What one group sees as a “virtue” would be described as a “vice” by the others group.

The vocabulary has been mapped to show how society teaches a set of values relevant to its circumstances eg in an authoritarian society obedience is valued but an outsider may see such behaviour as spineless.

virtue                    vice
+                    -
accepting             passive without initiative
responsive           opinionless
modest                without pride
charming             parasitical
adaptable            unprincipled
idealistic              unrealistic
polite                   spineless
optimistic             wishful thinker
trusting                gullible
tender                  sentimental

virtue                  vice
+                    -
active                 exploitative
make claims       egocentric
impulsive            rash
self confident     arrogant
dedicated           fanatical
purposeful         opportunistic
flexible               inconsistent
curious               tactless
tolerant              indifferent
generous           wasteful

Some of the conflict in the novel comes from each characters'  social traits. 

Whether you are writing gritty urban or world building SFF, the journey of character development is the struggle to find a balance, the middle ground or to provoke a profound shift in values. 

So, how are you feeling today?

sad, sanctimonious, sanguine, sardonic, sassy, satisfied, savage, scandalised, scared, scheming, scorned, secretive, secure, seething, self-absorbed, self-assured, self-confident, sensitive, sentimental, serene, serious, shamed, sheltered, shocked, shrewd, shy, sickened, sincere, sceptical, smug, sociable, social, solemn, sombre, sorrowful, sour, spineless, spirited, spiteful, spontaneous, stable, steadfast, stern, stoic, stressed, stubborn, studious, suave, subdued, sulky, sullen, supercilious, suspicious, sympathetic

Boehringer Ingelheim, a German drugmaker, pays expenses for female employees to be accompanied by their mothers on longer business trips, acknowledging the cultural aversion India has to women travelling alone.

Friday, 22 April 2011



I’m caught in the tyranny of the A to Z, posting when I should be enjoying the holiday and the opportunity for numerous DIY projects. ;)


Bossy, asserting, controlling, commanding, powerful, disciplinarian, unrelenting, dominant,  tough, abusive, instructing, persuading, interrogating, lecturing, questioning, depreciating, patronising, didactic, criticising, moralising, analysing, reassuring, consoling

Reasonable, equal, caring, problem solving, trusting, “I feel,” patient, tolerant, respectful

Immature, unthinking, defensive, frustrated, blaming, passive, withdrawing, daydreaming, humouring, obedient, compliant, daydreaming, cheating, defiant, hostile, negative
When individuals combine the mix creates conflict

Emotional, resisting, pressured, blaming, name calling, ridiculing, shaming, obsessive, distracting, diverting, depressive, lying, retaliating, angry, hostile, rebellious, negative, courting favours, flattery

Antagonistic, clashing, unyielding, asserting, commanding, powerful, unrelenting, ordering, threatening, attacking, probing, distrusting, judging, criticising, disagreeing, preaching

Conflict is created within relationships. 

Characters are the product of the relationships they have experienced.

Reacting in a relationship?

raging, rambunctious, rapt, rational, realistic, reasonable, rebellious, recalcitrant, receptive, reckless, reconciled, regressive, regretful, rejected, rejuvenated, reliable, reluctant, remiss, remorseful, removed, repelled, repentant, replenished, reprehensible, repressed, repulsed, repulsive, resentful, reserved, resigned, resilient, resistant, resolute, respectful, responsible, restless, reticent, revitalised, revolted, ridiculous, riled, romantic, rueful, ruthless