1. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Help me brainstorm: People who irritate you

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Tenderiser, Oct 26, 2015.

    Coming up with ideas is the hardest part for me, as a writer. I know it's the opposite for most of you so I thought you might help me out with a brainstorm. :D

    The only thing I know about my next novel (romance) is I want the two protagonists to start off hating each other. By 'that I don't mean they want each other dead, but more of a "you irritate the fuck out of me, Other Protagonist, and I would laugh heartily if I saw you faceplant in the street."

    People who irritate me to that level tend to be very arrogant. Arrogance really gets my goat. But that's not going to sustain a will-they-won't-they (when we all know they will) for very long. So, I'm asking for your experiences. If you've had that kind of irritation for another person, why? What was it about them that ground your gears so much? How did you meet, and how did your relationship end up? If you became friends, or at least begrudgingly started respected them, what changed your mind?
     
  2. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Hmm. An interesting question.

    I have to say that people who irritate me, do just that. By irritation, I mean they behave in a way that makes me grit my teeth (or grind my teeth.) I feel relieved when they leave my company. You know ...that big sigh, and feeling liberated and back to normal? Like that. That doesn't change unless their behaviour changes. It doesn't get any better. I might not dislike them, in fact I might actually like them and learn to tolerate them, but I will NOT enjoy being in their company for very long. So if somebody irritates me, I probably would never get into a relationship with them. I never say never, but probably never.

    However, taking against somebody when you first meet them? Aha. Now that happens. I can think of two examples in my own life. One became my best friend. The other turned out to be my soul mate, whom, sadly, I lost to circumstances beyond my control. But he is still my soul mate, and always will be.

    In both cases, I thought they were stuck up, because they ignored me.

    One of them (my friend) seemed wrapped in her little world. She had a very in-your-face (in a good way) dress style that was unique, and the combination of that plus the fact that she ignored people made me think she was stuck up. However, whenever she came into view I found myself watching her and being aware of her. Then, one day, we found ourselves sitting on the same couch in the student lounge, and she saw what I was reading. (It was the Fellowship of the Ring. My second read-through of the trilogy.) She said she'd been meaning to read it, and asked me if it was any good. Of course I waxed enthusiastic, and on impulse, I handed her my copy and told her to take it home and read it if she wanted to. It was the start of a long weekend, and when classes resumed, she beelined up to me and said "But there AREN'T any hobbits...!" Meaning that she'd been sucked in to the story. And that was that. From that moment on ...that was back in 1969 ...and to this day, she is still my best friend. Even though we have thousands of miles between us, we speak on the phone nearly once a week, and it's like we've always been together like that.

    My soul mate entered my life in a very similar way. I thought he was beautiful when I first clapped eyes on him, but he seemed way too confident and stuck up. I seemed to be beneath his notice, because he totally ignored me. I mean TOTALLY. He would come into the room and speak to everybody but me. It's odd, but while I found myself put out by this and a weeny bit angry, I wasn't put off. Again, when he was around, I was always aware of his presence ...where he was, what he was saying, etc. Then one day he materialised at my side and asked me a very personal, thoughtful question—the kind of question you would normally only ask somebody you trusted completely. I was so surprised I answered him honestly, and that was it. He told me later that he'd avoided me because he thought I wouldn't rate him, because he was younger than me, and that I'd already been to college, etc.

    So I think the trick is to create the kind of attraction between your characters that seems awkward. Maybe even impossible—depending on circumstances. The meeting often takes place when least expected, and sometimes the timing can be strange. This person has a hold on you before you know it, and on some level you are disturbed by your sudden lack of power over your feelings. This can translate in your head as dislike, or make the person seem arrogant, or full of themselves, or snobbish, or above noticing you. But you remain aware of them, and find it difficult to walk away if they are nearby. If somebody is genuinely a stuck-up snob, you will not feel the same kind of pull. In fact, what you will probably feel is genuine dislike. For the person who does matter to you, though, their avoidance behaviour is often because they feel the same kind of pull, and also don't understand it.
     
  3. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Thanks @jannert. I'm going to HAVE to work in the ignoring. Man, that would irritate me. I'm thinking perhaps they are work colleagues... one of them is a new employee and greets everyone in a meeting except the other protagonist, or something like that, then makes eye contact with everybody else during the meeting.
     
  4. Imaginarily
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    Imaginarily Disparu en Mer Contributor

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    Oh oh oh oh oh pick me! I have a STORY! :bigeek:

    *wiggles*

    So during my first couple semesters at Small Town College, I keep to myself pretty religiously and have my Introvert Defense System active pretty much all the time. I never go anywhere without at least one earbud in, the music intentionally too loud (I hope the people can hear it and fuck off).

    It's a very small college. Maybe.... three hundred bodies walking around campus, total, at any given time. The cafeteria is smaller than one you'd find in a high school.

    Which gives precious few seating options when things get a little busy.

    Over the course of these semesters, there is this guy. This overweight, boisterous, completely uncensorable guy. He has no volume control, nor a concept of "appropriate time and place" for certain subjects. He just says whatever the fuck he wants, usually pretty god damn loudly; his laugh turns into a squealy whooping cough when he really gets going (and he likes to laugh).

    He wears a suit and tie all the time, and he's always singing lines from musicals. He's like 22.

    He destroys any attempts circles have at keeping up their barriers. A group of people? Fantastic! He's there, the life of the party -- usually making everyone else cringe uncomfortably because they're too polite to tell him to fuck off. It is a small town in Texas, remember.

    During the quieter hours, the cafeteria doubles as a lounge. Students gather there, there are couches, giant chess, and ping pong.

    This kid shows me no mercy. I'm no exception; if I'm in the lounge, he comes over and starts to chat, whether or not I'm already with friends. He just inserts himself into the group, and we have to deal with it.

    Gradually, we become accustomed to his ways, we know what to expect when he's around, and he becomes more tolerable. It turns out this kid is actually pretty god damn funny, a theatre junkie, and is incredibly homosexual. He's out of the closet and proud. He adds a distinct spice to our environment that no one else can.

    By force, this kid made us love him. He's one of my favorite people now. If I had the choice, though, I would never have given him the time of day.

    Sometimes we would reflect on it, "How the hell are we friends?" I'd ask. "Like seriously, what the fuck how are we friends?"

    We have inside jokes now. My favorite one is where we'd gaze at the other person longingly from across a table, stretch out our hand to them, and make gross sucking noises at each other with our cheeks. (Relax your face, grab your cheek, and jiggle it against your teeth. You need to get air in there for it to make the sound. It won't work if you're smiling or laughing...)

    All because an extrovert wouldn't take no for an answer. I really miss that kid. :unsure:
     
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  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, that would definitely be a sign, if there is nothing to explain the cold shoulder. Definitely. They ARE noticing you, but are not sure of what to do next. It's a hyper-awareness that's hard to explain unless you've experienced it. It's often not seen as attraction ...more like 'who does he think he is, anyway?' Again, the clue is the lack of concrete reason. It's just a feeling. If the person actually says something rude or does something you really can't stand, that's a different thing. I don't mean that deliberate antagonism might not also be a sign of attraction—it certainly figures in a lot of romance stories, and is attention-seeking behaviour, for sure. But the avoidance is different. It's stronger, and there is no real explanation for it. You can't put your finger on why this person bothers you.

    If this person is seen, initially, as somebody who is NOT mate/friend potential, this pull can be quite confusing. But the moment you realise they are actually as aware of you as you are of them, everything changes. Pretty damn quick.
     
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  6. Masked Mole
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    Masked Mole Contributing Member

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    How about someone who's a topper (intentionally or unintentionally)? They make others look bad by overachieving. They can be vocal about their success or not, depending on how you want to write it.
    Also, loud people are irritating to me. There's a certain type who will just be loud all the time for the sake of it. That can be annoying.
    Then there are the people who are just constantly talking your ear off.
     
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  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes. All of the above. However, I just find these traits irritating. I don't think I could ever grow to love them.
     
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  8. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wait, Luna Lovegood is REAL?!

    This is really good advice. From a writing perspective, I like this as an unreliable narrator ploy--the POV character is biased and doesn't understand his/her emotions. He/she thinks one thing about the situation, but without a full understanding that view will be flawed. Over the course of the story, objective truths can be revealed to contrast with that biased character POV to grow the character and show a better understanding of the emotions. Omniscient POV might make this difficult, but 3rd limited and especially 1st could make this very effective.
     
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  9. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wow, this is hard! I mean, it's easy to come up with irritating people, but when it's someone your character is supposed to eventually fall in love with, that is a completely different matter. It can't be something permanent, or a dominating trait of his or her personality or they will never be able to live happily ever after. They would last a week before they got on each others nerves and decided that regardless of the attraction, they couldn't stand this person in the long run.
    Hm...
    Difficult.
     
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  10. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    That's exactly what I'm thinking. I strongly prefer third limited, so POV character would be thought-ranting about how smug and arrogant Unnamed Character is, thinking s/he's so great just because s/he's intelligent and successful and good looking and... ;)

    I'm thinking along the non-permanent lines. Like the arrogance would just be a bluff because really s/he's insecure or because s/he desperately has to get a promotion because the extra money is needed to save grandma from being evicted... I mean nothing that cheesy, but you get the idea.

    I also think it could just be the situation that makes pits them against each other, even if they would get along otherwise. Like they're both up against each other for a promotion that both desperately want for different reasons.
     
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  11. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    That sounds about right :)

    This is exactly why I love 3rd limited.
     
  12. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Oh yeah, I want to tell a somehow funny story of my own.

    There was this guy. The way he stood, talked, body language, all stirred up old memories. To top that he was hot :D. And I really didn't want that! So I kept my distance, was polite but remote. Tried to leave him alone and observed that he responded in kind (it was a setting where we couldn't avoid each other for longer than maybe half a day, if at all). There was a sauna there, and (for our sins) we were the only ones using it. We met accidentally more often than not (had more or less the same hours off from work), and the first time I stumbled over him was real uncomfortable. I mean seriously! (now its funny thinking back, but then it was not). So I took refuge in not talking, and he didn't talk either. The only thing I could think of to survive these random sauna-meetings was to relax and ignore him. And he did the same. Okay, I thought to myself, seems like we can both leave each other alone even if we irritate each other. This stuff went on for over two months, and the whole time I was under the impression that he didn't like me (not that I wanted him to).

    Anyway, at the end of that time when we finally could get away from this place, we shared a bottle of sparkling wine at our last this-time-not-random-sauna meeting (I don't now remember whose idea it was and why we were talking to each other at all), I guess to celebrate that this awkwardness was finally over. And we cleared up why we were not talking to each other. It was the same for him, he thought I couldn't stand him (looking back now I can see why he thought like that) - and I thought he didn't like me (for essentially the same reasons). Go figure :rolleyes:

    Bottom line: Irritation can be just a mask for memories or bodily reactions. Or just self defense :twisted:
     
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  13. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    There aren't many people I dislike. I have never really wished bad on people per se, but I have sometimes wished for a little karma.

    Reasons people often irritate me:

    1) As @Tenderiser said, arrogance. It is the single most unpleasant characteristic I can think of.
    2) People who are overly serious. I think it stems from arrogance again- it is the type of person who believe that they have a right to impose their views on others out of a sense of righteousness or superior judgement. Or the sort of people who feel it is their place to assume a position of leadership in any and every given situation because, of course, they are better suited for it than anyone around them. Essentially an inflated sense of self-importance. It grates with me hugely.

    While I avoid these people in my personal life, I unfortunately encounter them quite regularly in professional situations. Fortunately they are always in the minority and the general consensus seems to be that they are an arsehat. Unfortunately they usually propel themselves into positions of power and influence because that is their most influential goal in life.

    Edit: I should add that the elements I dislike in myself are encapsulated in 1 and 2, as well.
     
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  14. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm kind of repeating what others have already said, although I'm calling it being too perfect. Successful, good-looking, funny, everyone seems to love him/her etc. I think the irritation comes from jealousy. This is something one could probably feel towards someone they'll eventually come to love. 'Cause, in the end, no one is perfect, and it's even possible that your character creates this idea of a too perfect person to protect themselves.
     
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  15. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    I think the reader might enjoy seeing (er reading about) two people who share a similar characteristic berating each other for it -- either in person, or to other people. Unaware that they share this common aspect to their person.
     
  16. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Which would have insecurity as its source yes?

    ie if you love and accept yourself fully, I don't see how you could feel jealous of someone else.

    This provides another avenue to explore -- pick a weakness in each character and make it a strength in the other. At the start it can be a source of irritation (based on insecurity or feelings of inadequacy) but when they get together it can be the yin/yang difference that means they fit together so well. Your weakness is my strength and vice versa. The whole is stronger than the sum of its parts.
     
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  17. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, it stems from insecurity and low self-esteem. A person who appears untouchable and flawless could be irritating to have around.
     
  18. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wanted to post something here. But every time I wrote something I felt churlish for being irritated at such minor things. Thinking about things, I think it's more often that people should be annoyed at me, rather than vice versa.
     
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  19. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Watch practically anything starring Meg Ryan.
     
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  20. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Since we're talking about insecurities and low self-esteem, I'll share my (seven year) love story between me and the most irritating man in the world.

    I worked as the layout designer for a newspaper for six months before Blair started. He was the new entertainment editor. Immediately I was attracted to him. It was impossible not to be attracted to him. He was gorgeous! However, I was in a relationship at the time, albeit an unhappy one. Eventually, for some reason, this preppy, beautiful, seemingly unattainable guy became attracted to me too. And it made my life a nightmare.

    He was cocky, rude, obsessed with himself, and a misogynist. He regularly wrote controversial editorials for the paper, to which we regularly received hate mail. He was always saying awful things in the office, stirring up trouble and causing arguments between coworkers. Our sports editor even quit because she couldn't handle being around him anymore. But he was also very sweet. And he could stir something in me that no one else could.

    Needless to say, our relationship was tumultuous. When I was single, he wanted nothing to do with me. But when I was dating someone, he would call me every day. The more I pushed him away, the harder he tried. Then the second I'd give in, he'd disappear. It was exhausting.

    There was this side of him that no one saw but me. He was scared. Insecure. He was flamboyant and vulgar to cover up those insecurities. But every once in a while, he would let me in to see him -- see the real him. Everyone always told me to get away from him, that he was a bad guy. But they didn't know him the way I did. Despite how closed off he was with everyone else, I knew him.

    His lung collapsed once, was in the hospital for about a week. He wouldn't let me come see him, but he texted me regularly, sent me horrendous photos of this massive tube down his throat and a stitched up wound on his chest. The second he got out, he came to the office to see me. For a while, he was on medication for his lung, and he didn't know if he could take his anxiety medication with it. A short time after he got out of the hospital, he called me, hysterical, at three in the morning. He was having a panic attack and he was scared. So I drove over there and stayed with him until he calmed down. I called the doctor for him to make sure his meds wouldn't react if taken together, and then I went home... And he went right back to being a jerk.

    I always knew that if he could've just kept his wall down for good, we could've been a couple (officially, we were only "boyfriend/girlfriend" for a week, but I didn't know at the time... long story). But he always resorted back to that misogynistic prick -- asking me if he could date my best friend when he knew I'd get upset, flirting with other girls in front of me, saying vulgar things that made me want to run the other direction. Then he'd go back to sweet Blair -- compliment me, buy me stuffed animals (my weakness), call and talk to me for hours. Despite his flaws, he made me feel special and loved. It's what kept me around for seven years, always going back to him. And we were so connected. He always seemed to reach out to me right when I was having a bad day and needed to talk to him.

    But, he never changed. And I haven't talked to him in three years. :D

    Hope that helps some!
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2015
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  21. No-Name Slob
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    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I was irritated by my former receptionist. She was shady as hell, constantly talked about her girlfriend drama, but brought it on herself, had attitude any time you asked her to do something, ALWAYS played the martyr card when she fulfilled her daily responsibilities (oh yeah, I'm sweeping because I'm the only one who will do it, you're lucky you have me around. Never mind that it's in my job description and otherwise, I'd just be sitting at the front desk on my phone). She's very steryotypically 22 years old -- has no direction, problems with authority, and she's better/smarter/more enlightened than absolutely everyone else. On top of that, and the highest point of my irritation, she'd always tell these elaborate stories, and never made eye-contact with me the entire time she was talking -- that's the first reason I knew she was a total liar. The second time I knew she was a liar was when I heard her repeatedly telling clients that she manages the salon, which was total bullshit.

    What became of our relationship? Well apparently she was irritated by me as well, and the fact that I expected her to do her job with simple tasks like calling clients to confirm their appointments. I never once asked her to clean up after me (in fact, I'm the first to rinse a color bowl that doesn't belong to me and help her fold towels), but she just walked out of the salon last saturday. When my manager ran into her, she told her that she left because she was tired of being "the maid," and that I was rude for asking her stop telling my clients that I would be supervised by my owner (who was never there to supervise in the first place) during their haircuts. I've been doing hair for 8 damn years and I specialize in precision work. o_O
     
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  22. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    So I take it you didn't fall in love...?
     
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  23. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    :superlaugh:
     
  24. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    The classic story along these lines, is, of course, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I am not a fan of the movie, but the TV series with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth was just wonderful, and they portrayed this kind of relationship perfectly. The reason it's a classic story is because these things do happen. Not always as neatly and completely as in Austen's version of this dilemma and not always to people who are so well off in life. But it happens. The awareness Darcy and Elisabeth had for one another throughout the story is exactly what this kind of attraction is like. You're not supposed to fall in love with this 'other,' but you do, despite your better judgement and circumstances. It just happens. And it takes you a while to realise exactly what your feelings are, because you were so unprepared for them.

    What happens next ...ah, now that's where the story really lies, isn't it?
     
  25. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    One of the characteristics that I find most annoying in people is the passive-aggressively "nice" person. The kind of person who does something "for" you, except you didn't want it, and they expect gratitude for it.

    You're on a diet, and they bring fudge to your dinner party. At that same dinner party, they "help" cook and disrupt your routine. You're trying to teach your kids to call people Mr. and Mrs. and they make a big point of saying, oh, no, that's so formal! While you're away for an autumn weekend they rake your lawn and bag up the leaves that you were going to use for the compost heap. They feed your dog from the dinner table even though you'd swear that you mentioned that anything but his special diet makes him cause messes all over the house.

    You feel guilty every time that you're angry, but you finally conclude that there's no way that somebody just happens to do exactly precisely the wrong thing every single bleeping time, not by accident.

    If you're raised by someone like this (as I was) you're likely to be suspicious and angry about every little volunteer nice action. So in the falling-in-love scenario, maybe eventually the protagonist realizes that this person's niceness is actually....niceness.
     

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