As we walk through life we collect things; people, material objects, experiences and knowledge, the basics. What we also collect without realizing it are other people’s experiences. They cling to us like cotton a juniper tree and can be hard to shake off. They’re often small and go unnoticed for years attacking the unsuspecting at the most inopportune moments. Sometimes they’re little things, like a gesture, a run of fingers through your hair like your pop used to do, or a word repeated in angst, like Uncle Joe, or Mom, not that Mom would ever use an inappropriate word. Nor do they only come from family, we can pick them up from friends or even your worst enemy. Often it’s a reaction that initially seems out of place and more so, out of norm. These are great little tics to add to your characters and I’ve got them in my story Not Her Father’s Son, the 2nd book of Alex (yet to be titled), and in my YA Fantasy series Izzabella.
So let’s look at them; Alex has a habit of balling her fist into her leg when agitated and trying to keep both her cool and her tongue in check. Can you guess who might have used that as an outward way to control inward emotions? If you guessed the Colonel or Rafe you’re on the mark. As a military man working in a situation where emotions are expected, required, to be kept in place, either would be a good guess. It’s not shown in the story, but Rafe developed the habit while working under the Colonel. Imagine working for someone whose actions frequently cause you to want to lash out in a verbal, if not physical, attack for their lack of sensitivity and moral justice.
Jack doesn’t use the word often, but when he’s telling someone something he thinks should have been clear at the go, he uses the word honey, in gaining their attention. It the same condescending way his mother talked to her children when they learned a hard lesson that could have been taken from another’s misfortune.
In the 2nd book of Alex, Jack jumps to the conclusion that the murder is mob connected because of how his father died. There is no suggestion that it’s anything but an unfortunate accident, yet he sees clues that aren’t there, or not what they appear.
In Izzabella: First Glance, When Lace asks Marvin a question, he will sometimes turn the question around so she has to answer it first. It’s a trick his father uses to help Marvin learn to examine a situation for himself and face a hard truth he might know, but isn’t willing to face.
I’m not the only one who writes these into their novels. In Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, Stephanie is always catching herself saying something her mom says all the time. I bring up the Stephanie Plum series, and this is totally unrelated, but they are making/made a movie out of One for the Money. I’ve watched the trailer, none of the actors are right for the parts. Just my personal opinion. Like most people I get a vision of what these characters look like based on the written description and their personality, one reason I don’t like to watch movies made from books I’ve read, it’s rare the actors they pick look like I envision them.
What traits do you have that have come from another? Are there situations that you see one way based on a past experience or a retelling of someone else’s misfortune?