Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thursday Review—The Birth Order Book

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.

Or not.

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.
Follow Lynn on Twitter @lynnhblackburn


  1. That book is one of my all-time favorites! Gave me a lot of insight into not only my kids, but myself! I'll be sure to give a copy to my kids when they start their families!

  2. I'm first-born with the first-born tendency to take charge, put out the fires, take care of everybody, and generally attempt to control life.

    But I'm not first-born when it comes to organization and perfectionism.

    See you at CVS on Christmas Eve!

  3. Love Kevin Lehman's books. Great review, Lynn.

  4. Thanks for the review! I have yet to read Kevin Lehman ;)

  5. Susan - I agree! I thought it might be useful for parenting - wasn't expecting so much good info for ME!
    Vonda - Dr. Leman would say you have a very common 1st born trait and are a "discouraged perfectionist" :-)!!
    Keiki - Thanks!!
    Morgan - This was the first book of his I've read - won't be the last. Next up - some of his parenting books...

  6. Birth order - I have two older brothers that are different as night and day. And I have two grandsons who show interesting similarities to my two brothers. I'm the baby (the only girl), and I can be a slacker at times, but I'm already done my Christmas shopping. I love to make lists. Lists keep me sane.

  7. Karen - I cannot tell you how jealous I am! I'm not even close to done!! (BTW - you may be the baby, but you were the 1st born girl, so you probably have a great mix of firstborn/lastborn qualities!!)

  8. I read this book over 20 years ago. It'd be interesting to see the revised edition.

    I'm a first-born and have been a perfectionist for a long time, though it's waning.

    I've never been organized though.

  9. Lynn, you've done it again! Back to Barnes I go. I've never read this, but now my curiosity is piqued. The moment I read "It's December 1st" I immediate pressure. Yep, I'm an only! Thanks for another great review. :)

  10. Ellen - Hi!! He devotes several chapters to "perfectionists" - really good stuff! Cathy - :-) I didn't know you were an only!

  11. Thanks for sharing, Lynn! I see the effects of birth order with my children, my students, and of course in my own quirks.

    By the way, congrats on winning the book giveaway at Vonda's site! Let me know how to get that to you.


  12. I never thought of birth order as a way into a fictional character's personality--and yet it is so obvious and brilliant!