I thought I’d write about story characters, but Seekerville already has so many outstanding blogs covering the topic, I realized everything I could possibly say has been said. Then I read a book about called Verbal Judo, The Gentle Art of Persuasion by George J. Thompson and Jerry B. Jenkins. It’s about the art of gaining cooperation—a skill necessary for many professions including law enforcement and sales. It’s filled with important information, but not about writing—except for a chapter about people. Real people, not story characters. But who do we base our fictional characters on except real people? So I got interested.
They divide us humans into three basic types which they call Nice People, Difficult People and Wimps. Each group has different characteristics and should be handled differently. These types cut across all cultures, races, nationalities etc. You find them everywhere.
Nice People voluntarily comply when you ask them to do something. They’re people pleasers. They do what they’re supposed to do when they’re supposed to do it. But saying no or sticking up for their rights isn’t in their vocabularies or personalities. Sometimes they’re called co-dependent or doormats. Others might label them as heroic or at least people they’d like to know.
Not so nice people tend to take advantage of them.
These characters could become our heroes or victims, depending upon their strengths and weaknesses.
The next category includes the Difficult People who are often persnickety and hard to please. They may be annoying in person, but they’re lots of fun to write about! They send food back to the restaurant kitchen and demand good service in order to fork over a tip.
They usually question authority and ask the great American question “Why?” The word why can throw people off center, especially those who aren’t used to having their orders challenged. Don’t waste your breath trying to explain why you’ve asked them to do something. They probably won’t even care you have the authority!
But they’re always interested in how the deal benefits them—the “What’s in it for me?” type. So show them clearly and specifically what they have to gain by following your orders. If that doesn’t work, tell them what they can lose if they don’t comply. That should do the trick.
In an argument or any sort of conflict, move him and redirect his energy. Don’t resist this type of person head on.
These difficult people can easily become our story heroes and heroines because they’re complex and interesting, full of flaws, but able to stand up to others. They can grow better and stronger as they conquer the obstacles you throw in their paths.
Wimps sound like Nice People, but they’re actually Difficult People. Sneaky. They’ll say “Okay” or “You’re right” to your face, but they’ll stab you in the back. They act as if everything is fine with your relationship, then they’ll complain about you to anyone who’ll listen. They’re hypocrites and they’ll take you by surprise. You may never see them coming so you’re not prepared. They’re hard to recognize.
Wimps hate authority or being told what to do. But they don’t have the backbone to challenge you. They seek revenge instead. More difficult to deal with than Difficult People, they try to hide behind others.
How do you deal with a wimp? Strip him of his cover and now he has to explain himself—either put up or shut up. If he clams up he’s lost credibility. Others think it’s better to ignore wimps, but when they’re ignored or resisted, they grow stronger. Don’t snipe back at them. It’s probably advantageous to confront them honestly because they immediately weaken.
A real wimp will back down and even apologize. Exposure unsettles them. After you uncover them, they’ll probably give up and leave you alone. They’ll go on to someone else.
Wimps are often bullies in our stories. Or they could be villains.
Do you know any of these people?
My family has one of each. All have their virtues and their vices, none are perfect and none are villains. Hmm. I haven’t included myself. I wonder where they’d think I’d fit in. I don’t think I’ll ask.