Life in the Slow Lane

Contemplating life, faith, words, and memories

O is for Obstinate! — April 17, 2013

O is for Obstinate!

Likely each of us has run into or has a family member that we describe as obstinate.  We have two children who could fall into this category.  

Never willing to back down on something they believed with all their heart was right, each had a hold on his or her belief as tenacious as that of an octopus on its victim.

ob·sti·nate | adjective

1. firmly or stubbornly adhering to one’s purpose, opinion, etc.; not yielding to argument, persuasion, or entreaty

2. characterized by inflexible persistence or an unyielding attitude; inflexibly persisted in or carried out:obstinate advocacy of high tariffs.

3. not easily controlled or overcome: the obstinate growth of weeds.

4. not yielding readily to treatment, as a disease.

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Perhaps today a few images and quotes on the obstinate nature would be fun as well as informative:

Source: Arthur Mee and Holland Thompson, eds. The Book of Knowledge (New York, NY: The Grolier Society, 1912)
Source: Arthur Mee and Holland Thompson, eds. The Book of Knowledge (New York, NY: The Grolier Society, 1912)

Note the folded arms and stern facial expression.  Definitive of the word “obstinate.”

You could caption this as “I’m not taking another step I don’t care what you say!”
Obstinate doesn’t apply only to humans.

And this little one could have been one of ours, and reminds me of
our four-year old great-granddaughter when her mind is made up!

And a few interesting quotes by and from writers using the word “obstinate“:

Oscar Wilde on obstinate
Oscar Wilde on obstinate
Mary Shelley on obstinate
Mary Shelley on obstinate

and one last from a favorite of mine:

Jane Austen, obstinate headstrong girl
Jane Austen, obstinate headstrong girl

Jane Austen’s words perfectly describe our daughter!

Now you have images and examples of using the word in writing.  So, go write those stories and books!

Image attributions may be found by clicking on the image.

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Confused by Nonplussed? — April 16, 2013

Confused by Nonplussed?

Sometimes the “non” in the word “nonplussed” creates some fuzziness in the writer or reader’s mind.  Like traveling through a maze, understanding “nonplussed” can leave you feeling a bit lost.

 Today’s post attempts to clarify the real meaning of “nonplussed” and how it can be effective in character development.

nonplus |  transitive verb

nonplussed also nonplused nonplus·sing also nonplus·ing

Definition of NONPLUS : to cause to be at a loss as to what to say, think, or do :perplex

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Although the word “nonplussed” is a transitive verb, its use is very effective in reflecting the impact one character’s words or actions have on another character.  For example:

Walter’s comments left Julianna nonplussed.

What does this simple sentence convey?  Simply that whatever the two discussed — world affairs, the children’s schedules, a grocery list, finances — Julianna came away feeling confused, bewildered, perplexed.

However, quite often the “non” part of the word causes not only the reader but also the writer to believe the word “nonplussed” has the opposite meaning — that the character who is “nonplussed” is calm, in control, not confused.  Nothing could be farther from the truth!

As writers, it is our responsibility to make sure that we understand the words we are using and their correct usage.  Otherwise, our readers are left confused!

So, beginning now, let’s make it a habit to check the meaning and usage of a word that is unclear.  It will make for happier readers!

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Dealing with a Drama Queen (or King)? — April 15, 2013

Dealing with a Drama Queen (or King)?

This morning “M” is for MELODRAMATIC.  You know the type — overly everything!  Exaggeration reigns supreme in this character, and never is he or she at a loss for sensationalism.

melodramatic | adj.

1. of, like, or befitting melodrama. 2. exaggerated and emotional or
sentimental; sensational or sensationalized; overdramatic.

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As I sat down to write on this topic, the first image coming to mind was that of Theda Bara.  Famous silent film star, Bara was well-known for her vampish onscreen characters but also for her melodramatic expressions. Note the image to the right.

Without words, Bara was able to convey emotions and feelings with simple facial expressions.

However, as a writer, you have the ability to give your character not only facial and physical expressiveness, but also the dialogue to mold this person into one of melodramatic proportions.

In researching melodrama for this post, I came across a site, PTypes, which offers descriptions of various personalities.  Under dramatic personality type, you’ll find a list of character traits, interests, strengths, and much more.  Here is a short list of traits that would build your melodramatic character into a believable one:

  1. Enjoying being seen and noticed
  2. Meticulous in personal appearance
  3. Eagerly respond to new ideas and suggestions of others
  4. Quickly build new relationships
  5. Rich imagination and love telling stories

Hope this post and PTypes‘ descriptions provide useful.

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Laconic Lately? — April 13, 2013

Laconic Lately?

If you answered “yes” to the above question, and you’re normally vocal, your family and co-workers are likely wondering what has changed or gone wrong.  

I’ll explain.

laconic | adj.

tending not to speak frequently (as by habit or inclination)<laconic by nature, he found the monastery’s vow of silence was very much to his liking>

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The word “laconic” does not necessarily relate to the use of sign language as implied by the image above.  However, this image of the letter “L” best described the word “laconic.”

The image here is of a young actress playing the role of an uncommunicative orphan in the Irish dramatic thriller, The Daisy Chain.  Whether unable to talk or choosing not to, this character could also be described as laconic.

Laconic people are known to speak infrequently, appear aloof, considered by others to be sedate or reserved.

Another good example I came across when searching for images to offer a visual of “laconic” is Bill Belicheck, coach of the New England Patriots.

AP Photo/Charles Krupa - Patriots coach Bill Belichick has molded his team in his likeness: all business and uncommunicative.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa – Patriots coach Bill Belichick has molded his team in his likeness: all business and uncommunicative.

This photo appeared on ESPN Boston. The article referred to Belicheck as “taciturn, profane and eternally uncommunicative.”  Uncommunicative is among the list of synonyms provided for laconic at Merriam-Webster.com.

A laconic character in your novel or historical fiction work could be difficult to deal with if you’re a writer who enjoys writing dialogue.  The tight-lipped say very few words!

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Nobody Loves a Kvetcher! — April 12, 2013

Nobody Loves a Kvetcher!

Kvetchers are real characters in the truest sense of the word character.  Kvetchers whine, complain, resent chronically.  After awhile, they leave everyone else on edge.  How to go about developing a kvetcher?  Let’s see if we can offer some insight.

kvetcher | noun

to complain habitually:  — kvetch·er noun

Examples of KVETCH

  1. They’re always kvetching about something.
  2. <a chronically resentful person who seems to look for things to kvetch about>

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Perhaps you personally know a kvetcher.  If so, you’re in luck.   You have the perfect model for kvetching character.

If you don’t know a kvetcher, please read on.

This image is definitely over the top in describing a chronic kvetcher.

And yet, it gives you the image of someone who chronically complains, gripes, kvetches.

They do it about almost everything — job, home life, entertainment, food, dates — and the list could go on.  They get on our nerves, and they can eventually make us unhappy. That is if we allow them to make us unhappy.

Developing this character requires some retrospection about days or times that really made you want to scream, pull your hair out, shake your fist.  If you can move yourself back to this point in time, you’ve got a handle on the kvetcher.  If not, try writing about the image above describing what you believe the female is screaming about at her supposed supervisor, superior, boss, whatever you want to make the male.

After writing for about ten minutes, do you have a feel for kvetching characters?

Click on images for attributions.

Have You Met the Joker? — April 11, 2013

Have You Met the Joker?

Every classroom has one.  We’ve all met one.  And likely we’ve seen them on the movie screen.  Each with his or her own set of tricks.

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jocular | adj.

given to, characterized by, intended for, or suited to joking or jesting; waggish; facetious

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Fenimore Cooper.  College freshman when I was a sophomore.  Fenimore was the life of every party, even class time, and in the student union Fenimore led the laughter, the pranks, set the tone. 

Fenimore was jocular.  He was our joker.  If a classmate was having a dark time or a down day, Fenimore was the prescription to lift the spirits.  Loved by all, revered by many.

Fenimore was our resident “court jester.”

And then there’s the Joker, the one with the capital “J.”  Batman’s archenemy since 1940 when he first appeared in the comic book series.

Not exactly executing with Fenimore’s style his jocular personality, this Joker managed to exude a sense of evil and attempts to undo the role of others.

The Joker portrays the darker side of the jocular personality.

If you’re writing a story which includes a jocular personality, you get to choose which traits he or she possesses.

For a list of synonyms to help you out, go to Dictionary.com.

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