Friday, April 12, 2013

If I were a Character in a Book...

Writers know; good characterization in books is crucial to telling a good story. Characters need to have goals driving their actions, observable traits, development through the story, a combination of stable characteristics and fluidity to change and surprise the reader…

Basically, characters in books are complex with each thought, action, and desire thought out. Each little detail has a purpose and a plan.

Are we that intentional in our lives? Do we have the same depth that authors, editors, and readers demand from their characters?

And if not, why?

I came along this train of thought as I was trying to figure out how to create characters, thinking about the characters in my story. They are there, but they are very slow at showing themselves to me. I don’t even know their names yet! (This is probably because I am in the planning stages until I finish Grad School – I really hope they open up to me more once I start actually writing!)

I sat there thinking about my own characters, reading as much as I could from various writing tips to know what I needed to consider, and had the thought…

“What if I were a character in a story? What kind of character would I be? What defining characteristics would stand out to an author and be seen as important to include in the story of my life?”

In some ways this was a very exciting thing to ponder on.

But in a lot of other ways, with my life as it currently is, it was actually quite disheartening.

I’m not sure that a character like me would make the editing cut into a final draft.

I’m not sure people would find me engaging and interesting.

I’m not sure I have those fun quirks we come to love in our characters, which maybe aren’t necessary to the story, but make those characters come alive in our minds.

I’m not sure I have those things that make us love our characters.

But I want to.

If I plan to make my characters engaging, endearing, and exciting, why would I not want to be that way myself?

So for the past few weeks since I made this world-shattering realization about myself, I’ve been thinking and searching and evaluating myself more than ever before.

Because if my life were a book, I would want people to want to read it, want to get to know me, and ultimately, be changed by reading about me.

Over the next weeks, months, and years as I begin my journey as a writer, I’ve decided that I am going to ask myself the same questions I ask about my characters.

Because I want to understand myself the way I hope to understand my characters. Also, I want to be more intentional in my life and find ways I can make changes to become who I want to be.

Some of those things will be personal for only me.

But some of those things I plan on sharing here to reveal my character to you, dear reader.

And maybe as I share my experiences with understanding myself, you will be encouraged to understand yourself more as well.

So – here are a few quirky things about me. Things that, silly or inconsequential as they may be, make up a part of my identity.

1)    I eat Cheetos Puffs like they are going out of style. I don’t know why I like them so much, but I can’t stop eating them. It gets to the point that my tongue gets a little raw. (That’s referred to as food trauma, did you know? Any hurt or cut in your mouth that is caused by food: food trauma!) It’s absolutely ridiculous and yes, not the best for me. But I have a small stomach and don’t eat a lot, so it may not be nutritious, but it’s not pushing me over a healthy, normal amount of calories. Most days at least. 

2)    My favorite candy is Laffy Taffy. Though I love chocolate, the past year or so I’ve been on a more fruity candy kick. Laffy Taffy is seriously the best. (There have been multiple times over the past few months that I have gone to the grocery store for 4 things. Milk, cereal, Cheetos Puffs, and Laffy Taffy. What the?)

3)    Recently, I’ve started painting my nails more consistently. I consciously changed this because I wanted my internal book character to have painted nails. It’s been just over 2 months of keeping them painted and I am loving it. I even got a compliment from a worker at Firehouse Subs. She said, “you always have the cutest nail polish!” I did a little mental happy dance, because to at least one person, my character would be known as having my nails painted.  Yes!

4)    I am an ankle sock hoarder. Not just normal, boring, white socks. I’m talking socks with designs and colors and excitement! Today, my socks are blue and grey with little pink hearts, black and white lines, and darling little whales with water coming out their spouts. So fun. I wear these socks with my canvas shoes. I know normally you wouldn’t wear socks with that kind of shoe, but I do. Because I want to. I’m proud of my socks and I want people to see them! Target is feeding my addiction. They always have tons of fun socks for $1.50 a pair. If I see them, I literally cannot stop myself from buying at least 1 pair. It’s a problem. But not. Because I love it. Here's an example from Target online. I want them all. 

That’s all for now. I’ll revisit this topic again from time to time when something hits me.

*(A picture of me painted by a former roommate, Allie. She made one for each of our 5 roommates and together they decorated our living room for a year. Amazing. Loved it. But now I have no idea where to put this picture. It's in my brother's basement. It feels weird to put it in my room...)

But now I want to know about you – what things make you unique? What would your character look like if you were in a book? What quirks do you have that make you into a real, relatable human being? What would you add to your inner-book-character if you could?

Please share, I really do want to know!


  1. 1. I too love Cheetos puffs and always paint my nails!
    2. I am always looking at other people as if they were characters in stories, which means I sometimes awkwardly but unconsciously stare.
    3. I touch my forefinger to my nose when I laugh really hard. Don't ask why. LOL
    4. I carry books like an accessory.
    5. I'm always looking at the clouds/sky too.
    6. I have really strange sounding hiccups.

    This is really cool. You should start something with it!

  2. Well, a lot like your sock addiction I can't see a copy of Pride & Prejudice without buying it. I have serious love for that book. (I even named my daughter Pemberly.) I also have tons of socks too, but I'm too lazy/busy to match them up when they come out of the dryer so I always have two different socks on. I've always had this inexplicable urge to move to North Carolina, even though I've never even been there. I hate moose. They scare the hell out of me because I had a dream once where one with red demon eyes attacked me with that serious set of antlers. Living in Montana, thats a bit inconvenient. I'm a really really good swimmer and horseback rider. And I want to own a hedgehog at some point in my life. My husband's not too excited about that one.

    What do you think? Would I make it into the final draft? ;-)

  3. This is a really fun and thought-provoking post. I've never considered defining my own traits in the same way I would a character I was writing about. I guess if I was a character in a book, I'd probably be like Anne of Green Gables in a sci-fi nerd shirt lol. I can totally relate to your sock obsession too. :)