Sunday, April 17, 2011

Capturing Personalities in Your Writing.

In my humble opinion it's our silly little quirks that make us who we are. I need to capture more of that in my work in progress.

For example, I was thinking about how different my girls are from each other. They've all grown up together, and yet they are as different as rubies and pearls. As I thought about what makes them different it helped me to see how I can develop my characters and make them more interesting. I'll try to illustrate what I mean.

For fun, let's do a hypothetical case study. Keep in mind that I am going to exaggerate for literary purposes.

If I were to, say... ask one of  my girls to clean the microwave.
It would go something like this.

Emily. would passively put me off for a time or two but would eventually do it out of grudging obedience. It would take her six times longer than normal people because she would not be able to stop until she had removed every molecule from every crevice, dismantling and reassembling the appliance in the process. Then she would research the properties of microwaves on her laptop, and share her findings with me.

Dee would have to be captured in a large butterfly net, to hold her still long enough that she understood that I meant business. After which she would grudgingly do the job. She would zip through it, removing the top surface of grime and declare that it was clean. Of course, to her it really would seem clean, so it would not tickle her conscience in the least. Then, she would declare in her best Disney princess singing voice, "♫I'm done!♫" as she danced out the door to her next play practice, speech meet, or other social event.

Mary, the straight A student, would try to convince me that beings of higher intelligence should not have to do menial chores, and surely Emily and Dee are the more logical candidates. But, after high political debate and either bribery or deep threats from me, she would do a serviceable job in a very efficient manner. Following the tramatic event, she would growl at me as she went out the door to tell her friends in the neighborhood what a mean mother I am.

Small insignificant events can reveal a great deal about a person. Sometime I forget this as I write. Not that I think I should put in trivialities to build character, but that I need to remember that every event can show me something new about those people in my head.


  1. I love this post, Norma! I love picturing your girls and their individual personalities. I had to laugh. It's amazing just how DIFFERENT and UNIQUE we are!
    This is such an important discovery writers need to make as they create and write characters, and it's one that is easy to forget.

  2. Oh, I love this! I have 4 kids and I've looked at their general differences when creating a character. Your example of using a simple task totally opened my eyes. Thank you!! :)