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My objective is victorian style tea-drinking "upper class" lady characters. (it's more of a writing challenge)

Does anyone have any useful resources or tips for creating such a character? Personality-wise everything is pretty intuitive, however the language is a little out of my reach. Namely the structure of the sentences and phrases, and ticks related to showing manners with language. The vocabulary is also it's own separate headache—things like replacing certain bad words with more elegant equally-bad words, to name just the easy to grasp problems.

I've tried to find a style guide, or just a intuitive way of emulating the patterns in the language; however searching for things such as manners and etiquette yielded little to nothing.

So how does one go about creating such a character?

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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Personalities might be easy for someone along those lines, but motivations will actually be a bit harder. It sounds like what you want to write falls into the category of a [novel of manners][1]. Not only do you need to understand how they act and talk, you need to understand why.

You might want to read up on examples telling you what is and what isn't proper. For more modern ideas, The Preppy Handbook, The Official Filthy Rich Handbook, Class: A Guide Through the American Status System, or True Prep might give you some great details.

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The plot/story is actually pretty light hearted and the characters a little crazy—more importantly the timeline is present/future, not past/victorian (I'm actually trying to avoid using "expired" words if possible). I understand what you're saying but what I need is just a character that acts/talks the part for a certain angle I'm trying to pull with the story, not a dramatic character, or a character with social problems (that would have been more straight forward to research). But thank you for the answer nonetheless; I don't think I can make too much out of the letters however. :) –  srcspider Feb 28 '11 at 15:11
    
The "Class: A Guide Through the American Status System" was pretty interesting and gave me a good leap in the right direction. Thank you. You may wish to add that to your answer; I'll give it more time but that was pretty helpful so I'll gladly accept it if a better answer is not provided. –  srcspider Feb 28 '11 at 22:09
    
(continued) In combination with some more research I've been able to deduce sentences follow a very simple [greeting] + [low key message] + [high key message] pattern in dialog; and a sort of monolog/story-telling pattern when expressing broad ideas. Sentences also would seem very short and usually complete—no one part of the message tacking too many syllables or containing too many complementary words (which seem reserved for "bang sentences"). A thesaurus seems like a very good tool to get that upper class crust; albeit cheap, searching for a less used relative does seem to do the trick. –  srcspider Feb 28 '11 at 22:10
    
@srcspider - edited –  justkt Mar 3 '11 at 19:19
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Read P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster stories, particularly Aunt Agatha.

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@John: ooh, thanks for adding the link. –  Lauren Ipsum Feb 28 '11 at 14:22
    
"My Aunt Agatha, the one who chews broken bottles and kills rats with her teeth." …is not really what I'm looking for. When I say manners I'm not referring to discipline (nor bad disposition), just language ticks. But ty for the link, I'll take note of it. :) –  srcspider Feb 28 '11 at 15:00
    
Hm. How about Bertie's much more amenable Aunt Dahlia, the hunter, who hallooos as though she were bellowing to the other aunts across the primeval swamp? –  Lauren Ipsum Feb 28 '11 at 15:25
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