Character Traits Thesaurus Entry: Proper

Definition: strictly accurate; decorous; marked by suitability, rightness, and appropriateness
Causes: home environment, regional influences, monetary status, parental expectations, a desire to do the right thing, not wanting to offend, snootiness, insecurity, a strict rule-following background
Characters in literature: Aunt Alexandra (To Kill a Mockingbird), Miss Rachel (Anne of Green Gables), members of The Daughters of the American Revolution (Beautiful Creatures)
Positives: Propers are polite, upstanding citizens who don't intentionally cause trouble within societal norms. They respect authority. Propers can be counted on to toe the company line; they make excellent Yes-men. They are extremely loyal, sticking to a person, group, philosophy, or belief to the bitter end. 
Negatives: Propers are comfortable with the way things have always been and don't respond well to change. They are often close-minded and stick to their guns even when they're wrong. Because morals and 'rightness' are often handed down through ancient tradition or a chain of command, Propers rely on others to tell them what is right and don't often think for themselves. Because they value propriety, Propers are often disdainful of those who behave inappropriately.
Common Characteristics:
Use proper manner of speaking, dress neatly, keep a tidy house, follow a predictable schedule, are aware of the perception of others, firm disciplinarians, often heard quoting the whys and wherefores of propriety (age-old sayings, Bible verses, quotes from literature and famous figures in history, etc.),
Clichés to Avoid
The proper woman married to a beaten-down, lazy man. The hypocritical Proper, following the rules in one area of life and serving himself in another. 
Twists on the Traditional Proper:
  • Since Propers are often portrayed negatively, make your Proper's motivations pure.
  • Give your Proper a disgusting or unnerving habit that seems completely appropriate to her.
  • Instead of mixing things up by throwing an improper character into Proper society, drop your Proper into a society that doesn't value such things. Let the Proper cause a positive shake-up, for a change.
Conflicting characteristics that will make your Proper unique or interesting: angry, apologetic, clumsy, curious, doubtful, lazy, messy, naughty, noisy, tolerant, wise


Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I think it would be absolutely hysterical to give a Proper a serious case of flatulence...

ralfast said...

Very common when you want to demonstrate a clash of cultures or generations.

Melody said...

Ahhhhhh, I got so many Shiny New Ideas from this!!! :) Not sure if that's good or bad. :)

Kelly Hashway said...

Okay, I just read Susan's comment and I completely forgot what I wanted to say because I'm laughing so hard. That's just too funny!

Mary Witzl said...

So few people are every purely proper. I personally like the idea of a clumsy Proper.

I'm a big fan of James Herriot's vet memoirs. He had a wonderful story about a very proper woman cursed with a farting dog, which Susan's comment made me remember.

tracikenworth said...

Just what I needed to spruce up a character I've been working on. Thanks of the info!!

alaw said...

Hey, that picture is of the Captain from The Sound of Music, isn't it?

Becca Puglisi said...

It is the Captain. I thought it would work because he's very proper, but he also wasn't a yes-man, by any means. I thought of Mary Poppins too, because she was proper, but she was also very untraditional. This trait was interesting because there seem to be a lot of different proper characters out there.

alaw said...

I think it was a good choice! :)


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