Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Excitement wears orange socks

In The Book of Qualities, J. Ruth Gendler has personified 76 qualities and written mini-character sketches of them. (I copied a few of the shorter ones below.)

Give it a try. Think of the good and bad of each quality, the inappropriate reactions (I'm thinking of how envy can cause people to hate beauty, for instance), and how qualities interact. With some fleshing out, the mini-bio could form the basis of a character :-)

The generator randomly chooses a quality from Ruth Gendler's list. (Click on comments below for the full list.) There are also lists of qualities, emotions and characteristics in previous prompts: Character traits, Seven virtues and Freewriting to character building.


Beauty is startling. She wears a gold shawl in the summer and sells seven kinds of honey at the flea market. She is young and old at once, my daughter and my grandmother. In school she excelled at mathematics and poetry. Beauty doesn't anger easily, but she was annoyed with the journalist who kept asking her about her favorites -- as if she could have one favorite color or one favorite flower. She does not mind questions though, and she is fond of riddles. Beauty will dance with anyone who is brave enough to ask her.


Confidence ignores "No Trespassing" signs. It is as if he doesn't see them. He is an explorer committed to following his own direction. He studied mathematics in France and still views his life as a series of experiments. The only limits he respects are his own. He is honest and humble and very funny. After all these years, his sister doesn't understand why he still ice skates with Doubt.


Devotion lights candles at dusk. She braids her grandmother's hair with an antique comb. She works as an ecologist at the university. She wears long flowing tunics with bright cotton pants. She has never taken a dance class, but she moves with an unstudied grace, sensitive to the edge where her body meets the air.

Devotion balances periods of great stillness with times of movement and exuberance. She has prayed in many temples and seen evidence of God in unlikely places. She keeps a postcard of Saint Francis above her desk. A Yemenite amulet hangs in her window. Always she remembers to honor the Mother.


I have lived with uncertainty for a long time. I had thought ours would have been a much briefer affair. I had no idea how intimate we'd become until you showed up.

And now you are asking me to leave him, and there are a few things I need to know. Who are you? What are your motives? Can I trust you? Is it really me you want to spend more time with or Uncertainty you yearn to visit?


Power made me a coat. For a long time I kept it in the back of my closet. I didn't like to wear it much, but I always took good care of it. When I first started wearing it again, it smelled like mothballs. As I wore it more, it started fitting better, and stopped smelling like mothballs.

I was afraid if I wore the coat too much someone would want to take it or else I would accidentally leave it in the dojo dressing room. But it has my name on the label now, and it doesn't really fit anyone else. When people ask me where I found such a becoming garment, I tell them about the tailor, Power, who knows how to make coats that you grow into. First, you much find the courage to approach him and ask him to make your coat. Then, you must find patience inside yourself to wear the coat until it fits.
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