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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Chart that might give insight into characters and cultures

   
Author Topic: Chart that might give insight into characters and cultures
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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This pdf file (which you can download if you right-click on the link and use "save target as") was printed in our local newspaper and is from a book about helping people to change their attitudes so that they can get out of their poverty vicious circles and truly improve their lives.

The article said that the program teaches people to see how the way they think about things can keep them down.

I'm sharing it here because it may be useful in character development.


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Owasm
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I think we all have a general idea of what was there, but the differences between the upper class and the middle class were the most striking. I'll be using that perspective from now on.
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MAP
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Wow, fascinating. Thanks for the link.

[This message has been edited by MAP (edited May 16, 2011).]


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KayTi
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Very interesting, definitely some learnings there!

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Grayson Morris
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It is interesting, but .... it's full of clichés. So only the poor (with their Hearts of Gold) like people for who they truly are as individuals? The rest of us only care if someone can help us get ahead or make us look better?

Don't get me wrong; I think there is some basic truth here. But if we use this to create characters in at a particular socioeconomic level, we will be creating cardboard. People all across the board have different motivations and personalities, and while it's true that when you're broke, finding your next meal may have more priority than scoring designer clothes, I don't think this means that people in poverty are intrinsically nicer (or rich people are intrinsically shallower) than others.

And if this chart is intended to help people in poverty break out of it by moving them away from caring about people as individuals into viewing people as connections or means of getting ahead, well, I think I know all I need to know about the author.

[This message has been edited by Grayson Morris (edited May 17, 2011).]


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Natej11
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The first rule of stereotypes is everyone's an exception to them. The second rule is...the majority of people fit them.
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MAP
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Grayson,

I think this is more useful in creating societies not individual people. It is more of what a class as a whole values not what an individaul does.

I'm in the middle class, and even though I personally don't fit everything, nor do the people that I know, but I can see there is some truth about it if you look at the middle class as a whole.

Big houses, nice cars, etc are sought after. Parents brag about how well kids do in school, and fight tooth and nail to give the kids even the slightest educational advantage.

We all love our families and friends. I don't think the middle class is shallow, but things and achievement do indicate statis.

Anyway, I think it is more useful in world-building than characterization.


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Grayson Morris
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MAP, you're right - the chart is useful for creating groups of society. I also didn't mean to "diss" kdw - I hope you didn't take it that way, Kathleen! I think it's great to post all kinds of things that can help us become better writers, but I would caution the less experienced of us against taking traits useful on a sweeping, statistical level and applying them to individuals.
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WouldBe
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Even if you don't buy the stereotypes, the list of 15 categories of those stereotypes is handy for creating a well-rounded character: possessions, social emphasis, time, education, family structure, worldview and driving forces, to name a few.
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Josephine Kait
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This is very interesting information. It seems like it would be a rare individual who would fit the stereotype exactly, and it would be rather the deviations from stereotype that would make them interesting.

I take myself for an example, I fit mostly into the middle class category but I have one or two traits in each of the upper and poverty classes. I also know where each of those things came from. My mother lives her life from a “poor” outlook operating from a “scarcity” model, regardless of how much money she actually has. I’ve known that from long before reading this chart. My father on the other hand falls into the upper middle class. And I am a blend of the two.

As far as characters are concerned you can vary their backgrounds and influences thus mixing up these traits to create “real” multi-dimensional characters. But only if you let go of your own paradigm that any of these traits are good or better than the others. I’ve known people of great character in all three of these classes.

It is easy to see where a difference in values can lead to negative judgments between classes though, most especially between the extremes. The middle class serves as a kind of bridge which is part of why a strong and large middle class makes for a more peaceful society. The upper class, by its nature, is never very large. But a large poverty class, virtually no middle class, and a removed upper class was the situation in Russia right before the Czars were overthrown. In creating fictional societies it is useful to understand what makes them more stable or less stable. History gives us examples that we can use as a frame of reference. And this chart is a very useful tool, though not an ultimate reference by any stretch.

As writers we have to try to see things from as many perspectives as we can, remembering that no real person makes a choice that they believe to be a bad one. Even grave mistakes often fall into the category of “it seemed like a good idea at the time.” The Villain doesn’t see himself as the bad guy. To write well, we have to be able to see through his eyes as much as the hero’s or the motivations will be off and the reader will know.

My thanks to KDW for providing this resource.
-Jo

[This message has been edited by Josephine Kait (edited May 17, 2011).]


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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These values are more culture-based than strictly individual, so perhaps I should change the title to add "and cultures" and make it clearer.
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rstegman
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one should note that there is a difference between one's wealth, and one's status in society.

A person can be extremely wealthy and not be in high society.
Those who are in high society expend all their energy in conforming to what others think about them. They follow the set rules that are designed to show you are high society. You now how to use the different silverware, you dress based on the designer, you have the right brand names, you read the right books and speak the right dialect. They go to or throw lavish parties with the right invitations to show that you are somebody. The object is to become more established and raise higher in society.

Among the middle class business society, they have not quite developed as strong rules of conduct, but they have their parties with the right people. In business society, one might make friends and attend parties to those who are likely to help your business the most.

I cannot really talk about poor society. I figure they have their cliques and gangs and have their rules. I do know that outward appearances are extremely important. I do know some poor people who have nice looking houses, nice looking clothing, and no furniture in their homes.

If your character is part of the high society of one's wealth status, the way they think and talk is much different than if they are just and average person trying to live comfortably.

Freud based a a number of his theory on people who are living in high society, where they put on a face over what they really are. If your character is in high society, they may be acting while in front of people as what the people think of him is most important, and are only themselves when they are alone. That can add a lot of tension for the character.


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Reziac
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Someone can have no money but not be poor; someone can have no status in society yet have a lot of power (Rasputin leaps to mind). Or conversely, someone with money and power can live like a street bum. Those outliers make for interesting contrast characters.


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BenM
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I found it useful Kathleen, thanks.
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micmcd
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Is it wrong that despite being solidly middle class, I prefer humor about people and sex?
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