Definition: strictly accurate; decorous; marked by suitability, rightness, and appropriateness
Characters in literature: Aunt Alexandra (To Kill a Mockingbird), Miss Rachel (Anne of Green Gables), members of The Daughters of the American Revolution (Beautiful Creatures)
Common Characteristics: Use proper manner of speaking, dress neatly, keep a tidy house, follow a predictable schedule, are aware of the perception of others, firm disciplinarians, often heard quoting the whys and wherefores of propriety (age-old sayings, Bible verses, quotes from literature and famous figures in history, etc.).
Clichés to Avoid: The proper woman married to a beaten-down, lazy man. The hypocritical Proper, following the rules in one area of life and serving himself in another.
Twists on the Traditional Proper Character:
- Since propers characters are often portrayed negatively, make their motivations pure.
- Give your proper character a disgusting or unnerving habit that seems completely appropriate to her.
- Instead of mixing things up by throwing an improper character into proper society, drop your character into a society that doesn’t value such things. Let the character cause a positive shake-up, for a change.
Build a worthy protagonist with a mix of unique strengths that will help him overcome obstacles and achieve meaningful goals.
This sample, along with the rest of the character trait entries, has been expanded into book form. Together, the bestselling NEGATIVE TRAIT THESAURUS: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO CHARACTER FLAWS and POSITIVE TRAIT THESAURUS: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO CHARACTER ATTRIBUTES contain over 200 traits for you to choose from when creating memorable, compelling characters. Each entry contains possible causes for the trait, as well as positive and negative aspects, traits in supporting characters that may cause conflict, and associated behaviors, attitudes, thoughts, and emotions. For more information on this bestselling book and where it can be found, please visit our bookstore.
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Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.