April 17, 2011

Your Hero's Angst Began Inside the Womb

Any writer worth their salt knows in order for readers to care about our characters we must put them (both reader and character) through an emotional wringer. Rip their hearts out…make ’em sob…make ’em turn the page wanting more.

There are uncountable ways to develop your characters. I’m speaking not only of main characters (i.e. hero and heroine) but the secondary and the minor ones, too. Every character you use in your story has to serve a purpose, and a good writer knows even the hotel doorman who greets your characters should appear polished and friendly.

I collect characters from real life. I collect snippets of personality quirks, of descriptions, of dialogue and appearance and arrange them in such a way to create a 3D living breathing person who hopefully will grab my reader by the throat and say: Pay Attention to Me!

I love psychology. What makes people tick has always fascinated me. I had a discussion a few years back on how birth order impacts a child’s position in the family. I’m the first born. I have twin sisters three years younger. I was impressed enough with what I learned to dig a little deeper into the birth order psychology and how it affects us throughout our lives.

According to Michael Grose, author of “Why First-Borns Rule the World and Last-Borns Want to Change It,” a child’s birth position impacts his personality, his learning and his ultimate earning power. Grose says we have an intuitive sense of how our birth order impacts our development, yet we underestimate how significant that impact can be on our whole lives.

First-Borns come out of the womb with a heavy load to carry. Our parents are developing their parenting skills on us. Possibly I, as a first-born, have a few more childhood psychological traumas carried into adulthood than my sibs because Mom wouldn’t let me walk barefoot in the morning grass, but my sisters were allowed to run wild in traffic. As a result, I am careful, plan ahead; am reserved and cautious, whereas my youngest twin sister throws caution to the wind and rolls the dice. Que Sera, Sera is her motto.

First-Borns lead the classes at Harvard and Yale. Every astronaut that went into space was either the first-born or the eldest boy. According to my research more than half of U.S. presidents and British prime ministers were first-born, as was Nobel Prize winners. First-Borns are typically law-abiding, conservative; keen to please and yet need to be in charge.

Celebrity First-Borns: Prince William, J.K. Rowling, Hillary Rodham-Clinton, Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and all of the actors playing James Bond.

The parents of Middle Children have acquired a ‘been there done that’ confidence that allows them to chill out and not overreact when the newbie kid demands peanut butter for dinner and pushes the Brussels sprouts off the table. First-Born ate the poisonous little cabbages and now watches with shock as Mom hands newbie the PB&J. When the youngest is born, the Middle kid can easily become lost in the shuffle of their families, and as a result can be more easygoing and peer-oriented with excellent people skills. The middle children often take on the role of peacemaker in the family. They also know how to work the oldest sib and the youngest sib and get away with murder.

The Middles get along well with most people and fit in with just about any group. They are diplomatic, sensitive to others and often excel in sports or other creative endeavors. Middle children tend to leave the home earlier than their sibs, and yet statistically seem to have a lack of direction in their lives. They also acquire a “look at me” mode of appearance such as hair, dress or makeup to be noticed.

Celebrity Middles: Donald Trump, Bill Gates, J.F.K., Madonna, Princess Diana, Ted Kennedy, Tim Allen and Julia Roberts.

Youngest Child excels in creativity and can be very charming…possibly manipulative. It may be due to their parents having a nostalgic regret about this being the final baby that they give in to this youngest child’s demands far easier than the older ones. This can at times hinder the Youngest from maturing as all they have to do is turn on the charm and get their way. The Youngest often craves being the center of attention. Because mom and dad tend to do for Youngest than let Youngest do for himself, Youngest is less likely to set goals for himself, in which case they can wander in an unorganized, chaotic manner. As a result, they are the more likely to take risks without fear of repercussions. The Youngest usually identifies with the underdog. They have success in journalism, advertising, sales and the arts.

Celebrity Youngest: Howard Stern, Jay Leno, Cameron Diaz, Jim Carrey, Drew Carey Eddie Murphy and Billy Crystal.

Only Children (like Binky, pictured) have similar characteristics to First-Borns, which means they can be equally screwed up from our newbie parents’ mistakes and high expectations. However, research has shown them to be more confident, articulate and prone to better use of their imagination. They can also be highly critical and inflexible, and pain-in-the-keester perfectionists. The Only tends to be logical and organized. They have no problem hanging out by themselves with no real need to depend on others for entertainment purposes.

However, Only children can miss out on learning to develop territorial skills, such as sharing toys, a bedroom, and television program choice. They struggle with interpersonal skills in relation to family dynamics which can later lead to misunderstandings later in life with coworkers. They may feel awkward in group situations and on the outside looking in with peers.

Celebrity Only Children: Rudy Giuliani, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Alan Greenspan, Tiger Woods, Leonardo Da Vinci, Lance Armstrong, Carol Burnett, Laura Bush, David Copperfield, Robert De Nero, Teri Hatcher, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Robin Williams, Betty White, and Brooke Shields.

This link will help you develop your character with a snapshot of your character’s birth order: http://www.birthorderandpersonality.com/index.html

The above material I referenced from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1351567/First-born-Piggy-middle-Or-baby-How-place-family-rules-life.html by Linda Blair

AND http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2009/01/26/oldest-middle-youngest-whos-most-successful/ by Kate Lorenz, CareerBuilder.com Editor

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:08 PM

    I love that picture of the crying baby girl, looks like Julie and me when we were that age! This is a great article, I am creative and charming and... possibly manipulative. :)