I’ve been talking a lot about status, and I focused last week on High Status. This week, I’m taking a look at the flip side of that coin — low status.
If you read the High status posts, then I’m sure that you can imagine what a low status character is like already. Fidgety, shy, can’t make or keep eye contact, stammers, takes up as little space as possible, seems insecure, very quiet.
Wanna get a feel for lower status people in real-life? Watch an interview with Norman Reedus. Seriously. The man is charming and outgoing and clever, but he displays every single characteristic of a low status character. If you wanna get a good look at the differences between high and low status, watch an interview with Norman Reedus and pretty much any of his co-stars. Particularly Sean Patrick Flanery (searching for Boondock Saints panels at Comic-Con and such is a great place to start) or Michael Rooker (which again, panels at Comic Expos, but this time search for Walking Dead and the Dixon Brothers.) You can see a vast difference in the way these men behave and it’s a stark contrast in high and low status.
However! Using Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery as a case study for high and low status (Or Norman and Michael Rooker even) is extremely interesting because while the statuses are clearly defined in body posture and mannerisms, the actors view themselves as equals.
This is not the case in most character studies where status comes into play.
Low status characters tend to become ‘shy’ when confronted with someone even remotely higher in status than they are.
When writing a low status character, remember that the low status only applies to people outside of the character’s own head. If the character is alone, he is the king of his own world. He can sing, and dance and be generally high status, but as soon as his boss, or sister, or mother, or king walks in the door, the low status character is immediately back to begging and prostrating himself, unable to make eye contact, no longer singing, now very determined to take up as little space as possible in the room.
This makes for very interesting dynamics in pairs or groups and creates sort of a “pecking order” which I will discuss another time.
For now, I recommend going and having a look through celebrity photos and watching interviews with celebrities, see if you can’t pick out who is high status and who is low status. Then, start applying these things to your characters. It’ll open up a whole new playground with your writing.