Our grandson lives in Indianapolis. He’s young and rents a house with a friend of his. He invited us down last Sunday to see the house, meet his roommate, and grill for us. My daughter’s a traveling nurse in Indy and bought huge steaks and baking potatoes for the meal. My sister, Mary, came along for the fun. And it was fun. When my family gets together, we tend to tease each other, catch up, and laugh a lot. The next day, Ty called and said that his roommate thought we were hilarious and ruthless.
Okay, I had to think about that. Hilarious? We do love to give each other grief. And it’s possible each and every one of us is a tad eccentric. Ruthless? Well, nothing much is sacred. Everything’s on the table. And our approach to life? If something’s wrong, deal with it. If life hits you hard, throw a pity party, get over it, and decide what to do next.
I read a blog on Triberr today about writing characters, and it made me think of my family. The blogger–a writer–said that knowing GMC isn’t enough. Each character in the story should have a different attitude. And after thinking about that, I agree. People might have common goals, maybe even beliefs, but they’re approach to those could vary a lot, depending on their attitudes. Lots of things shape a person’s life, and all of those combine to determine a person’s attitude–how he sees what happens around him and how he feels a person should react to it.
The blogger said that if you listen to character A and she sounds exactly like character B, you haven’t made each character unique enough. And to do that, think about each of their attitudes. People in families all have different personalities. They’ve experienced the same of many things–parents, experiences, schools. But that doesn’t equate to the same personalities. Why? The oldest child usually is more adult motivated. The second child is often more in tune with his older sibling and other kids than his parents. So birth order comes into play.
My sister Patty and I are only ten months apart. My parents were young, and money was tight. They were busy and had too much on their plate to shower us with attention. But my sister Mary came along twelve years later. Mom and Dad were more comfortable financially. Mom was ready to just enjoy raising a baby, but she was older. By bedtime, she was tired, so Mary would pester me for bedtime stories and wake me up when she had nightmares. The dynamics had changed. Having a sister twelve years younger than I was felt like getting a new doll, only better. I could play with her, have fun with her, but I didn’t have to raise her:)
Parents and birth order are only part of what makes attitude, though. I was the oldest child, but only for ten months. Then poor Mom had two of us to deal with. And we were nothing alike. Are most brothers and sisters? I loved school. Patty didn’t. I made top grades, and Patty tried to flunk achievement tests so that she’d get put in easier classes. (Yes, she was smart enough to try to work the system:) I liked sports. Patty hated them. With my grandsons, Tyler was easy-going. Nate had ADD/ADHD and struggled through school, hated it. Ty couldn’t wait to start college. Nate never wanted to see the inside of a classroom again.
Many things go into developing character and all of those things create a person’s attitude. I think attitude might be the thing that distinguishes interesting differences for writing. When I outline my next book, I might list what each person’s attitude is. I’m pretty sure that would make each person’s approach and dialogue different from each other’s. Just a thought.
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