A Guest Post by Lynn Blackburn.
I'm a new writer and one of my great challenges is creating characters with a unique voice.
Because after the first draft, most of them sound a lot like me.
I know me (more or less) but all you other people? I don't get you at all!
For example . . . Today is December 1st. How does that make you feel?
- “A” —You feel compelled to double check your planner, make a list of gifts to purchase, and send an email detailing the Christmas plan to all participants. You may appear calm, but inside you're wondering where you put that paper bag the last time you hyperventilated.
- “B” —It’s no big deal. You moved to the other side of the country years ago. You may plan to enjoy the holiday with a group of friends. Then again, you may surprise the family and show up for dinner.
- “C” — So? Plenty of time! You’ll be in CVS on Christmas Eve, hoping to find a gag gift for your brother-in-law. Worst case scenario, you'll grab some gift cards and a tin of popcorn and call it done. You're looking forward to hanging out with everyone and you've got some great stories to tell.
If you had a panic attack after you saw the words “today is December 1st” then you probably answered “A” and are either a firstborn or only child. If you rolled your eyes because none of those fit you quite right you may be a middle. And if answer “C” fits you best, although you resent the implication that you're a bit of a slacker, maybe you're the baby.
Turns out, there's a lot more to birth order than I realized. Are you the second born but the first girl? Or the baby by more than five years? Do you have a sibling with special needs? There are all sorts of variables that impact whether you are a “functional” firstborn or lastborn or whether you enjoyed being the middle child or felt squeezed by your siblings.
Dr. Kevin Leman revised and updated The Birth Order Book in 2009. His writing style is engaging and humorous and the book is full of real world examples from his own family and practice. There are great insights for parenting and how our birth order affects our marriages. You might even finally figure out why your brother or cousin or aunt are so, um, challenging!
As good as all that is, I chose this book for its subtitle, “why you are the way you are”. I thought it could be helpful as I try to create a cast of characters that behave, well, not like me.
I'm working on creating tension and conflict in my novel. And understanding what makes people—even imaginary people—tick is the best way to know how to mess with them!
Now it's your turn. Anyone care to guess my birth order? Edie's? Ever thought about how birth order influences your characters decisions?
Don't forget to join the conversation!
Lynn Huggins Blackburn has been telling herself stories since she was five and finally started writing them down. On her blog Out of the Boat she writes about faith and family while her blog Perpetual Motion documents the joys and challenges of loving and rearing a child with special needs. A graduate of Clemson University, Lynn lives in South Carolina where she writes, reads, knits, takes care of three amazing children, one fabulous man and one spoiled rotten Boston Terrier.