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As a part of one assignment, I need to create of a character who is petty. His pettiness causes him (or her) conflicts with other characters around him (or her).
I am not quite familiar with this personal trait. I know petty people usually care too much about details, worry themselves with trivial things, but not much more. In my head I have an image of an old grumpy man, who doesn't have much sympathy for others and follows strictly his daily routine. I am not sure if I am on the right track. How to make a convincing petty character? What other characteristics are usually connected with pettiness?

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2 Answers 2

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"Petty" is making emotional mountains out of molehills. It's a way of being self-centered and having no larger perspective, and no empathy for others.

It's not being difficult for the sake of being difficult, but rather being difficult because one can't move beyond one's own concerns to see things from someone else's point of view, and doing this over every issue, no matter how small. It has no lock on age or gender.

Your character should be thinking, "No, I'm more important. My thing is more important. What I want to do is more important," in a whiny, childish kind of tone. The person should never say this aloud, but that's what's going on subconsciously.

Examples:

  • Laura and Janet both bring cupcakes to the school bake sake. They had a squabble earlier in the day about a parking space, so Laura puts Janet's cupcakes all the way in the back so people can't see them or buy them.
  • David has a bunch of CDs. His sister Maria wants to copy two of the songs, so she borrows the CDs without asking David while he's at school. When he finds out that she took his CDs without permission, he goes onto her computer and deletes the songs.
  • Bruce, Noreen, and Jack are working on a report for their department. Bruce insists that because the boss handed him the paperwork for the assignment, he's the head of the team, even though he's not the department supervisor. At every meeting he somehow manages to work in a reference to his being the team leader. When the report is turned in, even though Noreen and Jack agreed that everyone should be listed alphabetically, Bruce has changed it so that his name is first, "because I'm the team leader."
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Excellent answer. –  Aerovistae Mar 17 '12 at 14:13
    
thank you so much. so self-centered and a bit mean is the character I am looking for? –  Maggie Mar 17 '12 at 14:56
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With the capability of being mean, but mostly self-important. Petty is not necessarily malicious. –  Lauren Ipsum Mar 17 '12 at 19:10

I think that the image you have is only one aspect of pettiness. I would express that person as Grumpy Old Man, one of whose characteristics is pettiness.

I tend to associate pettiness more with younger women, being unnecessarily bitchy, pedantic, and for the purpose of being difficult and unhelpful.

To build this pettiness, it might work to have them connive and spend time doing something that is intended purely to hurt someone else. The reason is because the person was slightly rude to them. You might want to look at Gregory House, who can be petty in the extreme - although he is also a GOM.

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No, no, no. House is not petty. He can do petty things (don't we all) but he is not petty on the whole. He does petty things to harass, annoy, and tease people. He does that because he's a Magnificent Bastard, and smarter than everyone else in the room. He believes that conflict makes his team better doctors, and that people are too easily complacent about their thinking and being annoying and obstructive wakes them up. None of that is petty. –  Lauren Ipsum Mar 17 '12 at 10:28
    
It is not that he is always petty, but that he sometimes plans and does things purely because he can. That it petty. That was what I was referring to. He is so much more than petty, but is a good example of quality pettiness in some occasions. –  Schroedingers Cat Mar 17 '12 at 14:55

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