Wednesday, January 29, 2014

You Can Tell A Lot About Someone By the Way They...

Foggy windows in Florida. Not a good sign.
Sitting around today knowing I should write about something. The weather right now in Florida comparatively no better that the rest of the country and I have this throbbing pain in my back where this growth is....nevermind...too gross. I need to keep my hands and my head occupied and I don't really feel like crossing that Entrepreneur river again. Not this week. While I'm thinking about it, I should take the time someday and narrow down my focus of what my blog is about. Do I want to keep it in the realm of entrepreneurship, freelance and all things practical? Or, do I want to adhere to this blog's namesake and doodle and scratch writings for the sake of polishing a craft? Not sure. Still kicking the tires on whether or not I should make the plunge to Wordpress. Maybe if I did, I'd have no choice but to create more content. Maybe better content? Another platform wouldn't hurt, would it?

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...


     Count Their Money: If they count from the top of the stack utilizing a moistened thumb and moistened fingers, then they're used to being around it, accumulating cash is easy for them and they secretly hold a desire to flaunt their earnings in front of other people. The act of quickly swiping bills from one hand to the other is a cathartic ritual for them. They are motivated by cash. If they count from the bottom of the stack, it's a pretty strong indication that they don't know what they're doing. They aren't used to counting their earnings, they are used to getting paid with a check, going to the bank to cash it and having somebody else do the counting. They are generally uptight and will work hard to not participate in this activity any longer than they have to. These people are motivated by something else.

      Cut a Deck of Cards: Do they unconsciously deal from the bottom of the deck? Do they always catch themselves to make sure they deal to the left? Do they know what they're doing?

     Fold Their Clothes: Is it a "one, two and done" thing for them, or do they approach it like a GAP employee?
Boom...done...

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.

 Photo Credits:

Counting Cash
Dealing Cards
Folding Shirts Like a Boss