1. LoBee

    LoBee New Member

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    Help With Researching for character from different culture

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by LoBee, Feb 19, 2017.

    Ello. I've trying to write a non-caricaturish well-mannered British character, but I've been having trouble getting the authentic British characterization down (besides of language differences.)
    I tried researching characteristics of the modern english gentleman and only found a bunch of buzzfeed-esque lists, and stuff from the 1800s. I also made the mistake of trying to analyze Peep Show (which is a hilarious show btw) as a reference.
    I really don't know how to go about researching this so can I get any pointers, like where to look? Alternatively, if there are any folks knowledgable about English culture, or real life English folks willing to help me out—what defines the Modern English Gentleman? What kind of mannerisms would this person have? To what degree does class inform those mannerisms? As of now I do know class is important, but I don't know what kind of behavior or etiquette would come with it. Basically, I'm trying to learn the culture.
     
  2. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributor Contributor

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    As I think might be indicative of your problem, I have no idea what kind of person you're talking about.
    A literal gentleman? Someone who doesn't need to work? Or just someone who's polite?

    I hate to play the old 'chivalry is dead' thing, but I'm not sure there's any such thing as a 'modern day gentleman', only people who aren't particularly impolite.
     
  3. LoBee

    LoBee New Member

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    When I say gentleman, I just mean someone very poised and well mannered. I've been looking into this elsewhere and have determined that the character is from a well to do family, but not necessarily an established lineage. The cultural experience of poverty is different from place to place, so I imagine the experience wealth is also different. With that in mind I've been trying to identify what quirks and mannerisms come with this background—basically find an archetype I can build off of. Like if were instead trying to write an American modern day manly man—someone who makes a point to be masculine—and I wanted him to be authentically American, I would have to 1. Understand what masculinity means in an American context 2. Understand how masculinity is demonstrated in America. If I were to dive deeper, I would want to know how the expression of masculinity differs across demographics so I could appropriatly match my character. Really, there is no specific model of an all American macho man (that is not overtly stereotypical) but there are ideas, culture, and behaviors associated with it. This is essentially what I'm trying figure out for my character, so as to avoid a stereotypical portrayal, but in an English context.
     
  4. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Have you watched any British-made TV shows, made recently? If you haven't, you should. Any of them that portray a 'realistic' Britain would give you some ideas.

    Murder mysteries and police dramas should give you a good overview of various kinds of people. I'm not a big watcher of TV any more, so I'm not a great source of information. But if you start looking, you should come up with some role models. Whatever comes across as polite to you will probably actually BE polite. Just be careful to avoid stereotypes, which you're more likely to find in comedies than you are in dramas.
     
  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    One thing to keep in mind: I believe that money and social class don't necessarily travel together in the UK in the same way that they tend to in the US. Admittedly, I'm getting this from twentieth-century murder mysteries, but it's something to look at. The wealthy lower-class businessman, and the poor upper-class widow or young person, are very common...tropes, is that what I mean?...in those mysteries.
     
  6. LoBee

    LoBee New Member

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    What I got from other people I talked to is that class has a lot to do with one's family history, which is something that isn't important in, nor do I really want to get in to for this project. Realizing that, the character needn't be upper class to have material wealth. This aside, I would still like to know if there is a specific culture of the rich, like there are distinctions between the culture of the upper class, middle class, and lower class (e.g. titles, talk, dress, communing, etc).
     
  7. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    But you seem to be assuming that culture primarily follows money. And I'm saying that that may not be at all true.

    Even if you don't come up with an elaborate family history, I suspect that you do need to have some idea of the character's social class, before you can get detailed about their culture. For example, most of Agatha Christie's main characters were vaguely upper-class. They all seemed to belong in the same world, even though some had plenty of money and some had almost none.
     
  8. LoBee

    LoBee New Member

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    i don't mean culture as in civility or anything, just the common expressions of a group of people. people of different means live differently. I have my own understanding of this as an American, but I would like to know how things are different for the English. An actor can come from pretty much any social status, so his gentlemanly behavior is not necessarily informed by his class (still worth looking into though, and easier to research), but you seem to be using upper-class like a personality type so what does that mean? I asked because people I consulted elsewhere told me the main distinction of the upper class is their lineage.
     
  9. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Again, I'm saying that while Americans tend to live based on their income, that is not necessarily true of the British. I'm out of time right now for explaining any details; I may be back later.
     
  10. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    So, again, what I think I know about this topic comes from murder mysteries and the occasional online article here and there. I could be wrong. But I feel that you're not quite clear on what I'm saying, which is a different issue from being wrong.

    What I'm saying is that while Americans tend to die class and wealth very closely together, my impression is that it isn't, or at least wasn't, that way for the British.

    I'm going to throw in a bit from Agatha Christie's The Body in the Library:

    (Miss Marple) "I thnk she'd wear her best dress. Girls do."

    Sir Henry interposed, "Yes, but look here, Miss Marple. Suppose she was going outside on this rendezvous. Going in an open car, perhaps, or walking in some rough going. Then she'd not want to risk messing a new frock and she'd put on an old one."

    Miss Marple...spoke with animation. "The sensible thing to do would be to change into trousers and a pullover, or into tweeds. That, of course--I don't want to be snobbish, but I'm afraid it's unavoidable--that's what a girl of--of our class would do.

    "A well-bred girl," continued Miss Marple, warming to her subject, "is always very particular to wear the right clothes for the right occasion. I mean, however hot the day was, a well-bred girl would never turn up at a point-to-point in a silk flowered frock."

    (snip)

    "Granted, Fashion Queen, but the girl Ruby--"

    Miss Marple said, "Ruby, of course, wasn't--well, to put it bluntly, Ruby wasn't a lady. She belongs to the class that wears their best clothes, however unsuitable to the occasion. Last year, you know, we had a picnic outing at Scrantor Rocks. You'd be surprised at the unsuitable clothes that the girls wore. Foulard dresses and patent-leather shoes and quite elaborate hats, some of them. For climbing about over rocks and gorse and heather. And the young men in their best suits."

    This is a view of, if not necessarily the truth about social class, at least Agatha Christie's view of the subject.

    Miss Marple clearly regards herself as upper class. But Miss Marple is also quite grateful for the occasional gift of marrons glace (a candy) from her nephew, because she can't afford to buy them for herself very often. Most of Miss Marple's luxury experiences come from her nephew--who I believe makes his money from writing; it's not family money.

    Tuppence and Tommy are upper class, I believe--pretty much all of Agatha Christie's lead characters are--but when we first meet them they can barely afford two pots of tea.

    Anyway. I'm American. I may be getting this wrong; I'd like to know.
     
  11. making tracks

    making tracks Active Member

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    Hello, I'm English so I will try to help but I'm not really sure even where to start! There are quite a few stereotyped and out of date references here so I will try to clear those up first. @ChickenFreak , you are right that class and money aren't completely tied together anymore. However, the Agatha Christie example probably isn't the best one to base a modern character on, as I can't think of anyone who would talk in those terms about class or be so concerned about looking the right class, except for maybe people who are going to have to show themselves at public events and have certain expectations of them (and here I am talking a very elite few, the royal family for example). The term 'well-bred', as far as I've heard it, would almost always be seen as outdated and possibly misogynistic by the majority. 'Well brought up' is more likely to be used for someone who displays positive qualities like being polite.

    The class and money links are very complex. I don't think I can really do it justice in a reply like this because it is very nuanced. You really would have to do a lot of social science research to get into the socio-economics. Suffice it to say that there is too much fluidity and conflicting opinions on what categorises class - political opinions, money, family background and chosen lifestyle all come into play. I think what most people would call 'upper class' often is linked to money, but a lot of people (not all) who have that kind of money have it because their families had it and they were given opportunities that others were not. There are certain associations with this (some stereotypes, some more accurate), for example attending private schools and sports like fox-hunting are generally associated more with this class. They are more likely to be the people who are knighted and made into Lords and Dames. However, not everyone very rich or recognised in this way is necessarily in this bracket - JK Rowling is a great example. She is one of the richest people in the world but didn't grow up in that kind of environment and has very left leaning political views.

    The middle classes (again, very debated what this counts as) don't really have one thing to make them 'the middle class'. Political views vary widely between right wing conservatism and socialism. You may have heard the term 'champagne socialist' - it refers to people who are very liberal in their views and have enough money to live comfortable lifestyles. Family backgrounds similarly vary a lot.

    'Working class' again is not a fixed term. I think in general people still use it more to refer to people in lower paid manual jobs but even that is not exact and a bit of a stereotype. There have been times in the past when the Labour party (left leaning) was supposed to be for the working class, but there is a huge divide in conservative vs liberal political leanings. Basically, class in Britain is very tricky. Please, please don't try to simplify it down to clean cut stereotypes a la Downton Abbey - even if it was closer to that in the past it certainly isn't now! 'Cold Feet' is a really good TV show to show some of these differences which are a bit more nuanced if you are able to get it.

    Ok, so to try to help you with this character. As has been said 'gentleman' is usually used in a very general way. You do need to decide what kind of background your character has but maybe try not to think of it in terms of class. Where in the country did he grow up? (In the UK the way people talk varies incredibly depending on location. You don't necessarily have to write with an accent but it will help to have an idea of it.) Was it rural, a city, the suburbs? What was his family life like? How much material comfort did they have? Is he polite because his parents raised him well or was it something he had to learn for himself? Is he polite in a formal way (talking formally, minding what he says, trying to use respectful titles) or in a more familiar and warm way (using nicknames, bringing people into the fold, just generally being kind)?

    I think the main problem is that the character you are looking for is just too vague at the moment. Think more about who you want him to be then try to figure out the rest - which I am happy to help you with.

    Good luck!
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2017
    Lau_02 likes this.
  12. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Posting hurriedly to say that I completely agree that the Agatha Christie reference is out of date (it's from 1942) and that what Miss Marple said was not necessarily accurate at any time.

    My goal was to present an example of class and wealth being separated, in the mind of someone in some society.
     
    making tracks likes this.
  13. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    Try to watch 7-up, 14-up, 21-up, etc.

    This is a series that followed a group of 7-year olds, interviewed them, and then followed up at 7-year intervals. The latest was 56-up.

    My point is that there are people from a variety of "class" backgrounds (with a variety of accents). To the OP, there is a group of three boys and one girl from a privileged background - comfortably-off parents, boarding school, etc. Their attitudes are quite revealing, and the people (and they vary enough to give you a good choice of which end of that spectrum you want your character to be) they've grown up to be would be a good basis for your "gentleman" character.
     

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