In My Words: How Birth Order Helps You Figure Out Your Characters
Maybe you've filled out half a dozen questionnaires. You know your hero's birthday--and his birth weight. You know his given name and his nickname.You know his favorite foods and his favorite football team. But you still can't figure out what makes your hero tick.
A while back, I was working on the beginnings of a new story. My hero stayed in the background, refusing to talk. He was, to put it plainly, one frustrating guy.
I grabbed my well-worn workbook from the My Book Therapy (MBT) Storycrafters Retreat and started interviewing this guy--his name is Caleb--to discover more about him. One technique that authors Susie May Warren and Rachel Hauck endorse is to ask your character "Who are you?" and then keep asking "Why?" until you uncover his motivations and values.
Since I'm no longer embarrassed to admit that I ask fictional people questions -- and I expect them to answer me -- I started throwing questions at Caleb. Before too long, I realized Caleb was a first born child.
A ha! Time do some research on birth order.
Dr. Kevin Leman wrote probably the best known book on birth order: The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are. The birth order theory states that your position in your family -- firstborn, middle child, youngest -- influences your personality.
So what does birth order mean for Caleb, a first born son -- and, for all intents and purposes, an only child? (Can't tell you anything more without giving away my story. Sorry.)
Traits of firstborn children:
- tend to be selfish
- feel as though they are never good enough (ve-ery interesting)
- want things their way
- "grin and bear it" mentality