Character traits meme

When looking for inspiration I often head over to Deviant Art, where I found this character traits meme.

(Cick on the picture and it will take you to the original site where you can find a much larger version.)

If you take the time to visit Deviant Art you’ll find they not only have several sheets for character traits, they have an entire section of writing tutorials.

Thief number one describes himself

This is something I read somewhere. If you’re hung up on some plot detail, or not sure what one of your characters would do, have them describe themselves.

What they say may not be the way you, or the rest of the world sees them, but it gives you insight into how their mind works.

This is a character I’m building for a short story.
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I’m a thief, a burglar to be precise. I do what I do, because it’s what I do. The shadows, open windows, and cheap locks are my friends.

I’ve never held an honest job in my life. I don’t have a bank account. My work is cash and carry, no credit, no payment plans, just cash for what I carry. I do have a social security number, but only because the hospital insisted.

As far as family goes, mommy dearest was some drugged out working girl, and daddy dearest was some guy who had an extra c-note in his pocket. And when my dear sweet mamma bailed on both me, and the hospital bill, the hospital was only worried about the bill.

Growing up, I bounced from foster home to foster home, then at a very young age, I ran away. I was what they call a “troubled youth,” and honestly, I’m not certain anyone ever looked for me.

As far as appearance goes, I’m so “average,” unless I make eye contact, people don’t notice when I walk by.

But before you feel sorry for me, life provided a more practical education than any MBA program in the country.
I speak three languages and can puzzle out a couple more.
I’ve never owned a calculator because the math I need, I do in my head. –When you’re figuring your take, you learn about percentages in a hurry.
When it comes to business, I know what my cut should be, and I know what my business associates ROI should be. –It helps if you know how badly they’re trying to screw you.
And finally, because I grew up on the streets, I can survive pretty much anywhere. –Like a cockroach.

And no, I don’t dress in black, they only do that in the movies. Out of habit, and because of my trade, I tend to dress to suit the neighborhood I’m working, usually in muted colors.

Because I don’t have any close friends, I don’t stay in one place very long, and because I’m mostly out after dark, the word on the street is that I might be an assassin.

You know how gossip works, the more I deny it, the more folks believe it. –The truth be told, I’ve never killed anyone, I’ve never fired a gun, and the only time I have a knife in my hand is when I’m cooking. But, if people want to believe gossip, who am I to discourage them? It gives me street cred and keeps the real bad guys polite.

On Writing Language and Colloquialisms

When you write a character from anywhere except the place you are familiar with it helps if you know what language he/she speaks.

You also need to remember that every language in every location has it’s colloquialisms.

As an example, here’s George Jones, The Corvette Song

  • Oh, She was hotter than a two-dollar pistol
  • She was the fastest thing around
  • Long and lean, every young man’s dream
  • She turned every head in town
  • She was built and fun to handle,
  • son I’m glad that you dropped in
    She reminds me of the one I loved back then

The man thought the old guy was talking about the car, but he was talking about the woman sitting in the vette.
“Hotter than a two dollar pistol:” An Americanism, A two dollar pistol is undoubtedly stolen, therefore hot. A woman or car is hot, meaning a turn-on. If a car is fast, it’s speedy, but if a woman is fast, she’s easy, etc.

This can make it difficult for a non-American to understand at first glance.

This is also true in other parts of the world.
For instance, in some areas, a Mexican doesn’t “wait for a miracle,” he goes “to dance to Chalma” –“se va a bailar a Chalma”.

Instead of saying “chica and chico” in parts of Mexico, they often say “chavo and chava”.

In Barcelona, people often prefer to speak Catalan, and sometimes resent being lumped in with the Spaniards.

So you hear things like “Bon dia,” which means good morning and “Bon Nit” which means good night.
“Gràcies” means thank you but it sounds different that the Spanish “Gracias.”
And so-on.

Adapt your character’s speech to the area they are from. Keep in mind that even though people speak your language they often fall back on the phrases they grew up with.

(This entire blog is basically “notes to self,” so if I sound like I’m lecturing, I am; I’m lecturing myself.)