|Foggy windows in Florida. Not a good sign.|
Anyway, sitting around, avoiding responsibility and worming my way out of elevating skills of any kind, when I read this post from novelist Jon Simmonds. He recalls upon what a teacher once told him in regards to character development. "...To really understand a character you’re writing," his teacher told him, "you should make a list of the items they carry in their pockets." Being a dutiful student, he posited his own theory and determined that you can understand a lot more about your character by what they have in their living room.
You see the hook where a hand should be and maybe there's an eye patch involved, so more than likely, you'd be more than correct in assuming that this person is a pirate. But what does he have in his bunk? Does he have a bunk? Is there a picture of someone under his pillow? Does he sleep with a teddy bear? All of these things once answered will lend greater insight to any character and make for a much richer story.
To this end, I have also developed an exercise on character building. I started it many years ago and I wasn't sure if it would ever catch on. Maybe other people use it? I don't know, but I find it extremely useful. I call it, "You Can Tell A Lot About Someone By the Way They..." It came to me one night while I was working as a waiter. At the end of the shift, the waitstaff would sit huddled close together either at a table or at the bar with our various after-work beverages and blazing cigarettes (people still smoked back then) and we'd all add up our tickets and share a couple of calculators figuring out our tips. After a while, I would notice the various differences on how each individual would go about counting their money. There was one who would just grab the stack and count the bills as they came without giving any regard to denomination. There was the other who would separate by denomination and then count; highest to lowest. Then there was that other one who would do the same as the previous waitron, but make sure all the Presidents were facing the same way.
That was one way to find out about someone. The other, and more telling, was how they counted it. Although I never inquired any further into one person's personality, and I never wanted to presume anything, but I felt as though I had a pretty good idea by the way they counted their money. The exercise is akin to learn to spot a tell at the poker table. You Can Tell A Lot About Someone By the Way They...
Fold Their Clothes: Is it a "one, two and done" thing for them, or do they approach it like a GAP employee?
How do they sneeze? Do they freak out if their food touches? Do they have a ritual for getting out of bed in the morning? Everything we do means different things to different people. We humans are fascinating creatures. We are all open to interpretation. We all do the same thing. How we do them, speaks volumes on
who we are.
Folding Shirts Like a Boss