Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Using Birth Order in Character Creation

By Lorna Seilstad
Are you a take-charge first born? A peace-making middle child? Or the attention- seeking youngest of your family?

Study after study shows birth order has a profound and lasting effect on a person. When we look at our families, it’s easy to see this, but have you considered using the information we know about birth order to create depth to your characters?

But why is birth order important in fiction? Can’t we make characters do whatever we want? Not if we want to connect with readers. To reach our readers our characters must ring true on every level. When you say a character is the oldest in a family, but then give him or her qualities of a youngest child, something about the character hits the reader the wrong way. The reader might not be able to put their finger on what seems off, but there is still a disconnect.

In my current series, The Gregory Sisters, I turned to birth order to help me bring the three sisters to life. I wanted each of the sisters to not only be individuals, but also to be so real that readers would say, “Oh, she reminds me of my sister.” In order for that to happen, I used some of the research available on birth order.

There are many factors which can affect birth order such as the size of the family, parenting styles, gender, and distance between sibling’s ages, and when you’re creating your character you need to take those things into account. For example, I’m a second born, but my brother is eight years older than me. Because of that, I have some oldest child and some middle child characteristics.

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In my Gregory Sisters Series, the three sisters promise to help each other achieve their dreams. The scene below is from my current release, While Love Stirs. As you read it, see if you can guess which sister is the oldest, the middle, and the youngest.

Bubbles surrounded Charlotte. She leaned back, closed her eyes, and let the warm water ease her aching muscles. Ah, heaven.

She felt someone staring at her. Opening her eyes, she found Tessa sitting on a stool with her elbows propped on her knees. “What was worse—the tornado or being stuck with Dr. Brooks all night?”

“Tessa!” Charlotte sat up, splashing water out of the tub. “Joel was a perfect gentleman.”

“Joel?” Hannah stepped into the bathroom and placed a fresh nightgown on the hook behind the door. “You’re on a first-name basis? I wasn’t aware you and the doctor had become friendly.”

“I wouldn’t say they’re friendly.” Tessa sat back. “They fight like Grant and Lee.”

“She’s exaggerating, Hannah.” Charlotte scrubbed her face with a washcloth. “Dr. Brooks and I have talked a little. That’s all. And for your information, Tessa, except for the tornado, we had a pleasant evening.” Charlotte flicked suds at her sister’s cheek.

“You know this means war.” Tessa scooped up a handful of suds and let them fly in Charlotte’s direction. She fired another handful at Hannah.

“Hey, what was that for?” Hannah held her hands out in shock.

“Payback.” Tessa giggled.

“For what?”

“Pacing insufferably until Charlotte came home.”

“Why, you little—” Hannah gathered a handful of suds and aimed them at Tessa. The suds war was on.

Did you peg Hannah as the oldest? She is the care-taker, the one bringing in the fresh gown and hanging it on the back of the door. The youngest? I’m pretty sure you had no trouble assigning that role to Tessa. She’s fun, disrespectful, charming, and wants to know everything. The middle sister Charlotte, who stars in While Love Stirs, is the peacekeeper.

Let’s take a look at some of the things that we know about birth order. Remember, these are tendencies. They are not set in granite.

Only Children tend to:

Create imaginary companions

Struggle with frustration

Want freedom

Spiritually want to settle issues of right and wrong

Strengths—demonstrative, organized, clarity of purpose, stable, academically successful, self-confident

Weaknesses—sullen, reluctant to share, not street smart

Gets mad when being intruded on

Qualities—prefer to work alone, extremely responsible or very helpless, stubborn, comfortable being the center of attention, stays on the beaten path

Oldest children tend to:

Wait for attention instead of demanding it

Struggle with guilt

Want love

Spiritually desire a loving church community

Strengths—agreeable, visionary, leadership, compromise, responsible, academically successful

Weaknesses—obnoxious, bossy

Gets mad when shown a lack of respect

Qualities—ambitious, achievers, trailblazers, conservative, people-pleasers, authoritative, leaders, plunges into things  and gets into difficulties

Second born children tend to:

Be perfectionists about what they care about

Struggle with inadequacy

Want emotional connections 

Spiritually wants everyone to be committed

Strengths—friendly, self-discipline, attention to detail, consistency, diplomatic, creative

Weaknesses--critical

Gets mad when criticized

Qualities—sensitive, verbal, social,  competitive, more risk taking than oldest, more adaptable to change, mediators, avoids confrontation, watches for trouble when moving forward

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Third born children tend to:

Be emotionally strong

Struggle with fear

Want protection

Spiritually wants to gain strength through prayer

Strengths—sympathetic, compassionate, imaginative, practical, can be outgoing, fun to be around

Weaknesses—aggressive, disorganized

Gets mad when being putdown

Qualities—more cooperative than competitive, easy to get along with, social, manipulative, demand attention,  can be charmers, can be rebellious, will risk to help others

Fourth born children tend to:

Not listen to themselves

Struggle with anger

Want to belong

Spiritually wants a personal relationship with God

Strengths—empathetic, thinking, understanding, ambitious, life of the party, not people pleasers

Weaknesses--anger

Gets mad when being blamed

Qualities—not taken seriously, manipulative, adaptable to change, risk-taker, attention seeker, charmers, demand attention, impatient, often rebellious, goes against the flow

Did you know two first-borns seldom marry? And if they do, they often struggle with power issues? Isn’t that great fodder for conflict? The most compatible marriages are between two third-borns and the most common are between an only and a second.

Birth order affects everything from the way we drive to the way we parent to the job we choose, so it’s vital that we consider the birth order of our characters so that they ring true with the reader.

How do you see using birth order can help you with your current characters? Have you considered this aspect before? As a reader, have you ever noticed when a character’s action didn’t seem to fit the person’s position in the family?

Leave a comment for a chance to win one of two copies of While Love Stirs.


Here’s a little bit about While Love Stirs:
As a graduate of Fannie Farmer's School of Cookery, Charlotte Gregory is thrilled to have the opportunity to travel, lecture, and give cooking demonstrations on the very latest kitchen revolution--the gas stove. And she certainly doesn't mind that the gas company has hired the kindhearted Lewis Mathis to entertain at her lectures. 

Lewis encourages Charlotte's work, especially her crusade to introduce fresh, appetizing, nutritious food to those convalescing in hospitals. But young hospital superintendent Dr. Joel Brooks is not convinced any changes should be made--especially by this outspoken young woman.

When Charlotte and Joel are coerced into planning a fund-raising gala for the hospital, will this combustible pair explode?

Follow the second Gregory sister as she looks for true love and makes her way in a rapidly changing world in this breezy, lighthearted love triangle that will keep you guessing. 


~*~*~


Lorna Seilstad brings history back to life using a generous dash of humor. After her first child was born, she quit teaching and became a professional wiper. She says she wiped noses, tears, skinned knees, and baby bottoms, but at nap time, she wrote. She is the author of the Lake Manawa Summers Series and the Gregory Sisters Series. She and her husband have three children and call Iowa home. Find out more at www.lornaseilstad.com
and Twitter


105 comments:

Wilani Wahl said...

Thank you for this post. It is amazing how accurate this is. I will keep this in mind as I write.

Please consider me for the giveaway of your book.

I praying for all those in the line of these storms. I am thankful I live in the basement. It was very noisy even in the basement for about an hour. All is quiet but the radar shows more to come. We were under a tornado warning at one point.

Stay safe everyone!

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

What a fun post!
I don't put a lot of stock into birth order, but I do think it's fun to ask people where they fall in a family. And I've never met two first borns as a married couple so that seems right on.

My husband is the second oldest of eleven and I tell him he gets first born status. I think with that many kids, anybody above say 4th, gets to be top dog for a long, long time.

And yes, I'm the youngest! We still have power struggles. Maybe I should embrace my last born status more strongly!!

So, what do you think about the dreaded middle? I have a friend who only had two children because she had such a terrible life because the middle child that she didn't want to inflict that on her kids. I thought that was sort of funny (and sad). I tell my kids that there is no middle with six of them... Just oldest and youngest, hahaha.

Tina Radcliffe said...

I am not obnoxious and bossy!@!!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I'm #7 of 9 so I have no idea how to classify that, and I am obnoxious and bossy, so that pigeonholes me enough.

And Virginia, I'm with you. I've got six kids and yes, the oldest two are bossy.....

:)

And the middle two are bossy....

The youngest two aren't bossy, though, I think it's because I was TOO TIRED TO CARE and let them eat all the cereal they wanted.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

But I can see where the overview helps with characters. And how you can switch it up and do an inverse just to shake things up.

I love how you're smart enough to delve, Lorna!!!! AMAZING.... and those covers are to die for.

Absolutely lovely!!!!

Kav said...

Squuueeeeaaaallll!!!! Guess what I'm reading now????? That cover is so striking that it's prompting strangers on the bus to ask me what I'm reading. How cool is that? But frustrating because I have to stop reading in order to tell them and then they start asking questions and pretty soon we're in a conversation and then I'm missing reading time. :-( None of them knew there was such a thing as Christian fiction though, so I suppose I shouldn't begrudge their interest. I think it's the purples in the cover -- after this loooonnnng winter it just screams spring and is soooo pretty, who can resist?


Jackie said...

Thanks for this great post. I'll definitely add this to my keeper file.

My two sons are 12 years apart, and my dad said all my troubles started when the youngest realized the oldest wasn't an extra parent but somebody on equal footing. Ha! Turned out to be very true, but they are great friends.

Jessica Nelson said...

Fascinating!!!

Naomi Rawlings said...

Virginia, my husband and I are both first borns!

Okay, just had to throw that in there. I'm with Ginny in that yeah, I don't put a whole lot of stock in the birth order thing. There might be a bit of truth to it, but I also think God creates each of us differently with various strengths and weaknesses and all that.

And yeah, I totally guessed the birth order of your sisters wrong. I put Charlotte as the youngest, Tessa as the oldest, and Hannah in the middle.

Naomi Rawlings said...

Love that about when your trouble started, Jackie! :-)

Rose said...

Hi Lorna!

I always find the birth order interesting. I'm the second child but have all the traits of the first born. And my older sister has none of the first born traits!

DebH said...

well, both hubby and i are adopted, so technically we'd both be first-borns. i grew up a middle child of three (two brothers), he was the oldest of three. I do strongly resemble the middle child stereotype :(

After finding my birth parents, technically, I'm the oldest with seven younger sibs. Technically. I don't think anything counts when you find a sib after 30 years - the pecking order has long been established, so I sorta feel like the "baby" of the family because no one knows what to do with the "newest" addition to the family (or in this case, families - one for each birth parent).

I do find this post very fascinating. I'm feeling bad for my little guy. He's an only child. Would love to give him sibs, but alas... Now I'm just hoping to be able to nurture him in a way that the only child negatives stay minimized.

I LOVED the Lake Manawa Summers Series - more than once. Would love an opportunity to win While Love Stirs

Mary Hicks said...

Thanks, Lorna, for a fun and information filled post!

I fall fifth in twelve—I'm not bossy, I just want everybody doing what I know would be best for them.

But I do know when to back off. I live next door to a younger sister—three years difference in our ages—and I do have to be careful not to preach to her. She falls seventh in the twelve, so she's pretty laid back.

We laugh a lot and have fun together.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Lorna and welcome to Seekerville. It is always fun to figure the birth order into your characters.

I thought your comment about two first-borns interesting. Hubby and I are first borns and spent first 20 years fighting over who was boss. Last 20 plus we fight over who isn't. "You take care of it--No you take care of it" LOL

Sandra Leesmith said...

Ha ha ha ha Tina, We are not bossy are we?

However my family contends that the reason I write is because my characters are the only ones who do what I tell them. LOL They are all experts at ignoring my bossiness.

Jeanne T said...

Loved this, Lorna. I have thought some about birth order for my characters. Your listing of traits is extra helpful!

I'm the oldest of three girls, and I definitely have a lot of the traits you listed. :)

My boys definitely fall into some of these traits. Although my youngest (second born) does not take many risks, and is a very strong perfectionist.

I really enjoyed this post!

Connie Queen said...

I'm the baby of five and my husband is the oldest of three. I think I have some qualities of the youngest, but not overly much. My brother was only 10 1/2 months older than me. Oh joy for mom!

I've read somewhere that most comedians were the youngest.

My oldest sister married a first-born. They get along fine.

All this is very interesting, Lorna.

Julie Lessman said...

LORNA!!! Welcome back to Seekerville, my friend, and what a FUN, FUN subject!!

Okay, I'm officially freaking out here because apparently I automatically write in birth-order characterization without ever realizing it or knowing what's involved in each child. Maybe because I am one of 13 kids, so I've witnessed this birth-order characterization from little on.

For instance, in the Daughters of Boston series, I have the oldest sister being the caretaker, responsible one, followed by the 2nd daughter who is "more risk taking, struggles with inadequacy, and wants emotional connections, not to mention VERY critical. And then the baby of the family is "emotionally strong, imaginative, practical, can be outgoing, fun to be around," and coddled by mama.

I'm a double middle child, meaning, I'm in the middle of the 13 (#12 of 13), but also the middle child of the last three kids, who are set apart enough age-wise from the older kids to be a separate family. And I gotta tell you that your breakdown for the 2nd child is dead-on ... uh, which is why I relate to Charity so much, I suppose, my 2nd-born vixen sister in the DOB series. :)

Interesting stuff, Lorna, and VERY helpful!!

Hugs,
Julie

Julie Lessman said...

LORNA!!! Welcome back to Seekerville, my friend, and what a FUN, FUN subject!!

Okay, I'm officially freaking out here because apparently I automatically write in birth-order characterization without ever realizing it or knowing what's involved in each child. Maybe because I am one of 13 kids, so I've witnessed this birth-order characterization from little on.

For instance, in the Daughters of Boston series, I have the oldest sister being the caretaker, responsible one, followed by the 2nd daughter who is "more risk taking, struggles with inadequacy, and wants emotional connections," not to mention VERY "critical." And then the baby of the family is "emotionally strong, imaginative, practical, can be outgoing, fun to be around," and coddled by mama.

I'm a double middle child, meaning, I'm in the middle of the 13 (#12 of 13), but also the middle child of the last three kids, who are set apart enough age-wise from the older kids to be a separate family. And I gotta tell you that your breakdown for the 2nd child is dead-on ... uh, which is why I relate to Charity so much, I suppose, my 2nd-born vixen sister in the DOB series. :)

Interesting stuff, Lorna, and VERY helpful!!

Hugs,
Julie

Lorna said...

Wilani, I hope you stayed safe. These storms are terrifying.

Lorna said...

Hi Virginia. Love your idea to tell your kids there's no middle, but being a middle can be a great thing. They are the best socially and they are great negotiators.

Lorna said...

No one would ever say you're obnoxious or bossy, Tina. :)

Lorna said...

Ruthie, it is fun to delve into some of these things to make our characters richer. And the "too tired to care" thing--I'm impressed you had four before that hit!

Revell does such a great job on the covers. They did let me pick the hats. That's my only contribution.

Lorna said...

Kav!!! Thank you for taking When Love Stirs with you on the bus. I know your bus trips can be so long, but I will not be responsible if you get too into the story and miss the stop. I recall you telling me that's happened in the past.

Lorna said...

Good morning, Jackie! Are your boys more like two onlies with that age break?

And I know all about that oldest kid parent thing. We used to say to our son, the oldest, "Junior Parent, Parker Seilstad, on duty 24 hours a day." We haven't reached the day yest where he's sees his younger sisters on equal footing.

Lorna said...

Hi,Naomi! You are totally right about God making us each unique. Thanks for stopping by.

Lorna said...

That's really unusual, Rose. Is there a big age gap between you?

Lorna said...

Thank you for reading the Lake Manawa series, DebH! I think you're son is lucky to have a mom like you. And only children have so much going for them, I'm sure he'll be great.

Lorna said...

Wow, Mary, 5 of 12! That's a big family. I'm glad you and your sister are so close. That's the spirit I wanted to capture in the Gregory Sisters series.

Crystal Ridgway said...

Loved the post, Lorna. But I'm with Time. I'm not obnoxious or bossy!! This is definitely a post I will be coming back to.

Naomi, I guessed the same thing you did about the three sisters' birth order! :)

Lorna said...

Sandra, you're right, you can boss your characters around and they do obey. Hmmm. I never thought about that. I'm a middle child, but my brother is 8 years older than me and my sister 10. I have one younger brother. (I was a surprise and he was a mistake. :) )Because of the age gap, I have characteristics of both older and middle.

Lorna said...

Hi, Jeanne T. That's interesting about your boys. I noticed my second born, a daughter, takes calculated risks at times, but she's not a jump off a cliff kind of risk taker by any means.

Lorna said...

I'm glad you find this interesting, Connie. It's fun to think about even if it doesn't always ring true with everyone. Love your point about comedians. That certainly stands to reason.

Mz.ZeyZey said...

What an intriguing post! I certainly recognized myself in the characteristics listed under my birth order (not telling which). I disagree with some characteristics that shall remain nameless. LOL

I didn't do any research into the birth order for my characters, but they have stuck true to their orders as well. I have an only child hero and second place heroine. My hero has the additional factor of growing up in foster care after his mother lost custody of him (and he was old enough to be aware of what was happening). My heroine is the youngest, but her sister was the golden child, the favorite. These factors just seemed to enhance how well they fit with the characteristics you outlined.

I will definitely look into birth order for future characters. I would love to win a copy of your book!

Lorna said...

Hi, JULIE! Your characters are dead-on by birth order. Your big family must have gave you a natural feeling for all of this. I wonder if we do relate more to characters who share our birth order. That's a really interesting thought.

Jennifer Smith said...

Lorna, thanks for this post! I'm pinning this information. I've vaguely thought about birth order when creating my characters, but not in so much detail.
Also...I have two toddlers--one of my own, and one I babysit--and I can say I am also a professional wiper. :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

I've had time to sleep on it, and I guess I am obnoxious and bossy. Fine. I own it. Embrace my oldest child inner child.

Great post, Lorna.

Tina Radcliffe said...

ARen't you sweet, Lorna. And such a good fibber. Chocolate for you, next time we meet.

Mary Connealy said...

I have a copy of The Birth Order Book by Kevin Lehman and it is one of the few books that really have changed my writing a bit.

He takes the birth order idea and includes in it a personal's natural personality, so it's more complex than just birth order.

He talks about his wife who is a first born but a naturally easy going person. Then he talks about how she can completely take charge but in an easy going way. It's very interesting and I think of it when I'm creating characters, it helps me, I think make them a bit deeper and a bit more true to themselves.

Piper Huguley said...

Hello Lorna!

Welcome to Seekerville! I am looking forward to When Love Stirs coming out. It will be a treat for me here at the end of the term.

I love your post as well as your work and I have to agree. Birth order profoundly impacts my life and how I shape my characters. My Bledsoe sisters are shaped by their birth order--somewhat complicated by the losses that their mother suffered in between their births. The oldest, Ruby, is bossy and has a hard time letting those younger sisters grow up throughout the series. The husbands of the younger sisters usually have to engage in some sort of "Ruby showdown" before they can be welcomed into the family. I remember reading Kevin Lehman's book when I was a teenager and it changed things for me in my characterization.

DH and I are both first borns. It works because the birth order stuff didn't impact him. His youngest brother is the bossy one in his family so I can stay the bossy one in ours. :)

Lorna said...

Crystal, I'm so glad we have an abundance of first borns who are not bossy or obnoxious. :) I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

Lorna said...

MzZeyZey, I think we naturally draw a lot of characters along birth order lines just because we recognize it from our own families or from families we've seen.

And you have my permission to ignore any traits you want to in yourself. :)

Mary Connealy said...

The Kincaid Brides is completely rooted in Birth Order.

I take their natural birth order then I twist it by putting them through a crucible as children that virtually destroyed their family...Seth's accident which led to Pa being gone more than home and Ma mostly sitting in a rocking chair crying herself to death.

So the take charge oldest brother Rafe becomes a controlling tyrant. Out of Control

The easy going, charming middle brother Ethan because completely superficial and unable to love anyone or care deeply about anything. In Too Deep

The wild, slightly spoiled, little brother becomes reckless and honestly, goes over the edge from wild to crazy. Over the Edge.

This was inspired at least in part by The Birth Order Book.

Lorna said...

Hi, Jennifer Smith! It's nice to meet a fellow professional wiper. I cherish my child care days as much as my teach ones. I think each season of life brings new challenges and experiences that only enrich our writing.

Thanks for the pin!

Lorna said...

Tina, I will gush all sorts of things if you promise me chocolate!

Lorna said...

Mary, thanks for bring up Dr. Lehman's book. I meant to mention it. It's really the best book around on the subject and I think it should be in every writer's tool box.

Mary Connealy said...

I'm the third of eight children. And we are all born close together.

I'm 14 months younger than my next older sister and two years older than my next younger brother--he was the first boy.

But our family was divided into The Big Girls (three girls in a row) and The Little Kids.

Also somewhat divided along the lines of girls (5) and boys(3) so some of these rules are a little shady for me personally.
Add to that I was extremely painfully shy. And (let's face it) absolutely adorable. I had a chubby round face and deep dimples. So instead of milking that cuteness I spent most of my childhood hiding behind my mother's skirts.

But I did get picked out of the middle of that rabble of children to be a flower girl at my cousins wedding. The honor of that was profound, to be CHOSEN.

But it was also terrifying because I didn't like attention.

Quite the riot of emotions when that happened. And I had a prettier dress than any of my big sisters, too.
I felt like a princess over that.

sigh. It was lovely.

Lorna said...

Morning, Piper! Love the "Ruby showdown." In my books, Hannah, the oldest, is an attorney and she interrogates prospective suitors. I hope you have as much fun reading When Love Stirs as I had writing it.

Myra Johnson said...

Very interesting stuff, Lorna! Thanks for the great list of characteristics, too. Definitely one for the "save" file!

I could see myself in the "only child" list. I'm really the third-born, but there's 21 years between me and my next older sibling, so not much context for brother-sister relationships.

And . . . now you've got me analyzing my in-laws, my own children, my grandchildren, my story characters . . .

Lorna said...

Mary, you completely nailed the birth order of the Kincaid brothers. That is a perfect example of how a writer can use this kind of information and I loved every one of those books. (Well, to be honest, I love all of your books. To be even more honest, I love 99% of the books I read.)

Myra Johnson said...

Reading backwards through the comments . . .

Um, yes, TINA, you do need to embrace your bossiness. But we love you for it.

RUTHY, I guess you just inherited bossy genes. ;-D

Lorna said...

I bet you were the most adorable flower girl ever to walk down an aisle, Mary.

I remember being one once. I did feel extra special.

Lorna said...

Myra, that 21 years would certainly make you more like an only child. And bossiness can be a really good thing in the right hands. Right TINA and RUTHIE?

Mary Connealy said...

My first born is married to a first born.

They do very well together. And I see them as very classic types. Achievers, ambitious, take charge, organized.

But they seem to team up and do all this together rather than clash over things. They're very reasonable and talk things through to reach decisions.

My third daughter was youngest for a while, my fourth daughter is sort of a straggler, a five year gap...but Connealy Daughter #3 is married to a middle child but he's the first son so that skews things a bit and I think he had a LOT of first born characteristics...and Dr. Lehman's book talks about that, how first SON even if he's not first CHILD can take on qualities of a first born.
Same is true for first daughter, being the first of your gender within a family has to be factored in.

It can be very complex--which is fun.

So she's sort of a youngest and he's sort of an oldest but ultimately she is NOT the youngest and he's NOT the oldest.

Laughing at myself. Sorry.

Lorna said...

Oh, MARY, you have me chuckling. It can get very complicated, and you're right about those sons, especially in families that put a lot of value on a son like my husband's. He was the only one to carry on the family name despite having five aunts and uncles. Because David and I both have some first born tendencies, we've had a few power struggles, but because we're really second borns, we negotiate them well. LOL

Marianne Barkman said...

Lorna ...I'm the oldest born, but a follower. Other than that, I'm obnoxious and bossy. I'd love to read your newest novel, cause I love your books!

Mary Connealy said...

Marianne chances are if you were SERIOUSLY obnoxious and bossy, you wouldn't admit it. So you're probably okay. LOL

Lorna said...

Marianne, Mary's right. You're probably all right in the bossiness department, and thank you for being a reader!

Meghan Carver said...

I LOVE all that birth order psychology! Like Mary, I was going to mention Dr. Kevin Leman. He has brilliant insights, and reading his book explained for me a lot of personality quirks in my family. I've also read that the first-born of a gender, even when the second or third or fourth child born, still has some characteristics of a first-born. So, even though I'm second born, I'm the first girl, so I would have some first born characteristics. Ooh, I would love to put all this into characters! Great post!!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Lorna,

Love the covers of your sisters series! How have I missed these? Must rectify that in the near future!!

I don't put a lot of stock in birth order, but maybe because my family was so opposite. I do not have many traits of the first born at all, except high academic achievement. I am the opposite of a leader. As a child, I was very timid, had no opinions of my own and followed everything I was told. Luckily I outgrew that somewhat when I went away to university.

My younger brother on the other hand has way more of the first born traits. Very opinionated, strong, goal oriented, aggressive, etc.

Hope this hasn't messed all my characters up!! LOL.

My daughter (the oldest) is demonstrating a lot of the first born traits now that she's 20. Interesting!!

Thanks for the insight!

Cheers,
Sue

Tina Radcliffe said...

Oh, thank goodness. Lorna can be bought.

I'm a first born who married a first born, btw.

We agree to disagree. On everything from politics to religion.

Regina Merrick said...

Birth order is an amazing topic. My parents were both the babies of their families, so that was always interesting! LOL Me? I was first born, first grandchild on both sides. I am SO the example of first-born! ;) Great post, Lorna!!

Missy Tippens said...

Lorna, what a fun, helpful post! This isn't something that I often consider while planning my characters. I definitely need to add it to my planning.

I'm still laughing about the first borns not often marrying. Well, my husband and I are both firstborns. So yeah, we both tend to be hard headed! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Wilani, stay safe! I have a feeling we'll be in the basement this evening here in Georgia.

Elaine Manders said...

Hi Lorna,

What a fun post. I just realized every one of my heroines is an only child. I'm the last of six but with a 9 year gap so I really grew up like an only.

My husband is an oldest and I'm a youngest. When he tries to be bossy, I just ignore him. Maybe that's why we get along so well.

Missy Tippens said...

I agree, Kav! A very striking cover. Lorna, they're both beautiful!

Brenda Anderson said...

Love this, Lorna. We have to have you up to MN NICE to teach on this subject!

I found it interesting that I have many more traits of a first-born than the 3rd of 7 (unfortunately, that includes the bossy part).

Lorna said...

Hi,Meghan! I love trying to find out why we are the way we are, too. Every family has those quirks and its fun to see how they come about.

Lorna said...

Susan! Good morning! I love the covers, too! Like I said, Revell's art team is the best.

I doubt you've messed your characters up one bit, but next time, you can write them and then see if they fit the birth order at all. :)

Natalie Monk said...

This info is going to come in so handy!!!

I'm totally linking to this post in my blog's "For Writer's" section.

Excellent, excellent information.

I'd heard a little about birth order before creating my current characters, so I think some of these traits came out subconsciously in the siblings I'm writing now. But the last and youngest is the first girl with a 17 year age gap. Wow. So she's attention-seeking and rebellious, but also has first-born leadership qualities that get her (and others) in DEEP trouble. :)

Thanks for sharing with us, Lorna! I'm saving this list!

Lorna said...

Tina, would you like a list of my highest commodities?

Regina, I'm not a bit surprised you're a first born, my friend. It makes you a great library director.

Lorna said...

Hi, Missy! The experts say that first-borns don't often married, but apparently first-born writers do! I think it's always helpful to know our tendencies even if everything else doesn't fit.

Lorna said...

Thanks for stopping by, Elaine! Do you like to write about the lone wolf type of heroine? If so, that may fit your heroines well. Maybe you relate to onlies more. I bet you like your time to yourself.

Lorna said...

Brenda, my awesome crit partner is here! Her debut novel CHAIN OF MERCY just released. Be sure to check it out.

Lorna said...

Hi Natalie! I'm glad you find this info valuable. Don't you just love it when you find something and think, "I can use this in my writing!"

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Hey Lorna,
Only child checking in. I did have imaginary companions and created stories to act out in my head. I didn't struggle with frustration or want freedom.

I do want to spiritually settle issues of right and wrong. I'm physically demonstrative, but unorganised. I'm stable and have clarity of purpose, and always had good grades.

Self-confident? Sometimes. Depends on if I feel like I'm in my zone. Writing and church - yes. In a room full of strangers not based around either topic - no.

I'm not sullen or reluctant to share, but I'm not street smart either. I don't get mad when intruded on. I do prefer to work alone, I'm extremely responsible.

I'm stubborn, uncomfortable being the center of attention, but I stay on the beaten path. That was fun.

Lorna said...

BTW, the picture of the adult kids on the couch are my niece and nephews. The one laying across their lap is the youngest. Imagine that.

Lorna said...

Hey,y'all, Shannon's my other awesome crit partner. (See, Shannon, I used y'all for you.) You might have read one of her Heartsong Rodeo books. If not, make sure you do!

And Shannon, I'm not sure all of the characteristics would fit anyone, and those imaginary friends have sure come in handy, haven't they?

Stephanie Queen Ludwig said...

Hi Lorna! I am the oldest, and I think I have a lot of the "oldest" child characteristics, and "only" child as well, since my brother and I are 5 years apart. (I don't want to do that with my kids, since he and I missed out on a close relationship for years due to our age difference.)

My husband is the youngest, by a five-year age gap. Imagine that!

Thanks for a thought-provoking post. I've been on the fence about whether to make my current MC's sister older or younger, and this just helped me decide.

Have a great day, and I can't WAIT to read While Love Stirs!

(Is it just me, or does the cover model for Charlotte look a bit like Sybil from Downton Abbey?)

Wilani Wahl said...

I have a feeling last night was just a teaser for the worst that is yet to come. I live in the NC mountains and the sky has looked so ominous all morning. Round 2 should be starting up this afternoon.

The vertigo and balance problems are at their extreme mode and getting worse so I know it is coming.

thank you all for your concerns. I am so glad I have the Lord.

I am trying to work on my wip before it gets so bad I can't. I added notes last night for a tornado to be a part of the wip. I really don't want to actually experience it for research though.

Please continue to stay safe everyone.

Courtney Phillips said...

Well, I don't fit in the mold. Ha! I'm the fourth child in my family, but I'm not the life of the party. I'm more the one sitting on the couch reading while everyone else is loud and boisterous :)

I loved your Lake Manawa series. Please enter me in the drawing!

Loves To Read said...

Loved your post! Now I will be thinking about birth order when I start reading a new multi book family series -and trying to guess which sibling is which before the author tells me! Please include me in the drawing for the free book - your covers are gorgeous!

Lorna said...

Hi Stephanie! I would have guessed you to be the oldest Stephanie. I"m glad the post helped you with your WIP. I can't wait to read it.

Does the cover look like Sybil? I've never thought about it. She is sure pretty enough to be on Downton Abbey.

Wilani, I'll keep praying for all those in the dangerous weather areas--especially you. Keep us posted.

Lorna said...

Welcome, Courtney! I'm so glad you enjoyed the Lake Manawa Series. I had a blast writing them, and this Gregory Sisters Series. I really have way too much fun playing with these imaginary friends.

Lorna said...

Good afternoon, Loves To Read. Good luck with your guessing game. That should prove interesting.

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Thanks for this post, Loma. I never gave birth order any thought when writing a story. I will after reading this. I thought one's zodiac sign more telling. Mine describes me almost perfectly. I'm a first born Virgo and can be bossy. I hope not obnixious. Hubby's a first born Leo and not the least bit bossy. We're very compatible because he's patient.

Lorna said...

Pat, I hope you'll give birth order a try next time when you craft your next story. I think you'll find it opens a new layer for your character.

Sandra Orchard said...

LOL, I came from a family of 3 girls, but I figured Hannah as the middle sister. My middle sister was so NOT the peace maker type.

I recently read that sometimes it's only within the family setting that they demonstrate these characteristics.

CatMom said...

Hi Lorna! I loved your post today, and have been fascinated with birth order--although I must admit I hadn't actually thought about it when writing my characters. But I certainly will now, and a big thank you for sharing those characteristics with us.

I'm the "baby" of 3 girls, and although my 2 sisters are only a few years apart, it was quite a few years before I was born. So for many of my growing-up years, I felt like an only child at times.

Congratulations on all the books you've written (those covers are lovely!). Thanks again for sharing with us.
Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo

Janet Dean said...

Lorna, thank you for this informative, fascinating post! I don't write books with big families. Often my heroes and heroines are only children or one of two and the sibling isn't "on stage." Your post will make me more award of characteristics of birth oder.

I'm a middle child and the only girl. As you say lots of variables that change behaviors, but I do see a lot of myself in your second born birth order characteristics.

I'm married to an only child. I notice you didn't say the happiest scenario, but we've got a lot of wear on our tires so something must be working. :-)

Janet

Lorna said...

Sandra, that's interesting. I know that as soon as families get together, they tend to fall back into the old roles. I've seen that happen a lot with my husband's family.

Lorna said...

Hi, Patti Jo! I bet you did feel like an only child at times. I hope this will help you on your next story.

Janet, I think a lot of books have only children as characters. It makes it easier to not have to deal with siblings. After all, if they aren't going to play a role, why name them? But the "off the page" ones, like you mentioned, can still help layer the character.

Dianna Shuford said...

Great information, Lorna. Thanks for sharing all of your research.

I'm a first born and my husband is a third born. It does cause conflict occasionally because he often sits back and waits to see what happens while I want the situation dealt with immediately. I've had to learn how to dial it back, and he's had to learn how to step forward a little more.

I would love to read your book.

Terri said...

As the youngest if seven I hate to think what this says of me! I'd love to read your book, please enter me in the drawing.

Jackie Smith said...

Only child here....then I had only one and she had only one!
Makes a small family, and sometimes that is sad! DH is one of 8 though... so that livens things up. lol
I would love to be in the drawing for your book, Lorna. I really enjoyed your LWS series.

Wilani Wahl said...

We are having a quiet night so far. Thankfully. So grateful for all the prayers.

Mary Preston said...

Very happily the writers I tend to read have the family order & traits worked out beautifully.

I'm one of 7 - fifth born - makes life interesting that's for sure.

Audra Harders said...

Sorry I'm a day late! Lorna, this is an incredible post. Being an only child, the mystery of my two children's relationship with each other and WHY they always fought with each other over the silliest things still evades me. Thanks for the insight.

Know that I will print this post out and keep it as a reference for my characters. You've shed light on my life, LOL!

Anna Weaver Hurtt said...

Wow, what a cool post. I am the 2nd born (technically... I'm a twin) of 8 kids, so it's been interesting to identify the traits and personalities that each one has on your list. It's spot on!

I'll definitely be working some of those traits into my characters. Thanks for sharing with us today. :)

S. Trietsch said...

Mary!

This is one of my FAVORITE subjects!! I am the oldest child of non-oldest children going back on both parents side as far as we can!

I married an oldest child and we definitely struggled with control issues!

We have twin daughters who have more traits of 'only children' than any other but the 11 minutes seems to have a bit of bearing as the oldest is the care taker and the younger one seeks attention! (They're juniors in college)!

Thanks for a fun article!

Stephanie

Marcia said...

Awesome post! I'm in the middle of two brothers, and our childhood demanded we take care of each other. Although, being the only girl, and growing up without a mother, I tended to "mother" the boys more than they did me. We're all in our 60's now, and still are very close.
Bookmarked this and will use it in my writings. Would love to win that book!

Andrea Strong said...

I'm the middle of three or the second of five (My has two more with his second wife). My full siblings and I are almost a textbook birth order case, except for the risk taking. My older sister was, and is more of a risk taker than I am. I think it's mostly because I have a more compliant personality. The desire to follow the rules seems to overrule the "2nd born" tendency.

My older sister was bossy and obnoxious (though she wouldn't ever admit it). My younger brother was totally spoiled and got away with murder. I was a peace maker, really in both of our parents' homes. Between older sister and younger brother, or between step-mother and younger brother (a relationship still somewhat friction-fraught even now that we're grown)

Except when older and younger ganged up on me (which usually happened if I tried to boss my brother like my sister bossed me - for some reason they both hated it).

I'd love to be entered for the book.

Andrea Strong said...

Oh, and my daughter has been an only child for 7 years, but will become the first born before the year is out.

She displays a LOT of the only child traits listed, and I don't expect she'll ever quite out grow some of them. I can't wait to see what kind of big sister she'll be.

My husband is the middle of three as well, but his brother is 9 years older, and his sister is 6 years younger. I say his parents had three only children.

I just thought of it, but he's backward on the risk taking thing too. His brother was much more rebellious and a risk taker than he ever was. He likes to say he learned what not to do by watching his brother.

Debra E. Marvin said...

Always a fascinating subject. This is a great list (they aren't all going to be 100% but sure looked close!)

I have three children and they don't follow the norm for birth order (I better leave it at that...)

Cheryl St.John said...

Fantastic post, Lorna!
xoxo

Michelle F. said...

Please enter me in the drawing. I am reading When Love Calls and I'm almost done with it. I'm an only child; no kids and not married but I have cats.