You Can Tell a Lot about a Person

cropped-ramonagravitar.jpgLife is a never ending quest. That quest means different things to different people, and some of us have more than one quest. I’m one of those people.

I am constantly on the search for three things: blog post topics, writing prompts, and character studies.

(What, you thought this was going to be about the meaning of life or something? I’m a writer, not a philosopher.)

Yesterday, on a quest to test out a writing prompt, I posted the following on social media.

Complete this sentence with the first thing that pops into your head. Don’t overthink.

“You can tell a lot about a person by the way s/he ________.”

 My purpose was to try out this question as a writing prompt. Once my wonderful friends on Facebook began to answer, I saw this question as a possible way to view a character. After that, I saw it as a blog post topic.

Hot diggitty dog! Three quests in one question.

Quest #1 – Writing Prompt

Use the question “You can tell a lot about a person by the way s/he _______” as the start for a writing exercise. Try exchanging “a person” for a real person: a doctor, a teacher, my husband, a child. Or you can use yourself: “You can tell a lot about me by the way I _____________” and write an exploratory essay about some part of your personality.

Quest #2 – Character Studies

Fiction writers like to poke, prod, or tinker around with their creations’ psyches. To write a character effectively, it helps to know background that never appears on the page. Below are some of the responses my fabulous Facebook friends provided to complete the statement, “You can tell a lot about a person by the way s/he _________.” Look at the responses. How does your favorite creation tip, walk, talk, smile, or listen?

Drives

Dresses

Walks

Smiles

Posts on social media

Combs hair

Drinks coffee

Treats children

Overthinks

Follows directions

Greets people

Listens

Acts toward others

Greets pets

Likes sports

Laughs

Stands

Snores

Sits

Eats

Responds to a crisis

Problem solves

Treats animals

Eats an Oreo

Kisses

Stares

Smells

Handles frustrations

Shops

Takes care of her teeth

Interrupts

Moves

Looks at you

Whistles

Deals with jagoffs

A few surprises there, right? Go through this list to discover how well you really know your protagonist.

 Quest #3 – Blog post

You’re on your own for this quest. This is my post, but you are welcome to share!

9 thoughts on “You Can Tell a Lot about a Person

  1. Very interesting post, Romona. Thank you for the tip on how to help with characterization in my writing. I think another interesting question might be: You can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she responds to prompts like this. Really, the first thing someone thinks of is how a person kisses? That might help develop a character who is looking for romance or is obsessed with it.

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  2. What a great idea. I love it. I’d hate to ask people what they think about me, because either they’d laugh, or compliment me, and I’d never know if they really meant it. However, I do think it is very helpful for me in creating my characters, especially new ones.

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  3. What a great list. I have a character in my series who has a dental hygiene obsession, so I’ve actually used the way a character takes care of his teeth. I realized I knew the answers to most of these questions but–and this is an oversight, for sure–I’ve never thought about how my main characters smell. Or how they would eat Oreos!

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    • Thanks, Amber! The smell and Oreo comments came pretty far down the list, but I’ve been contemplating an Oreo twisting scene ever since yesterday. Teeth are good, too. I can’t remember where I saw this description, but a character has teeth that were too perfect and too white. I think we’ve all seen that guy.

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