The book: Writing Fiction Step by Step by Josip Novakovich
The exercise: Construct a character from one aspect of your personality (not necessarily the dominant one). If you are shy construct a character who is much more shy than you. Now describe his behavior, in summary, in several social situations.
The quandry: I like to think I’m lots of things—in moderation. As such, no one characteristic is overtly sticking out. I’m a little shy, a little brazen, a little ‘hood’, a little refined, a little ambitious and a little bit of a slacker. Hmm…
This character is based on my inner control freak. Her controlling tendencies exponentially exceed mine.
Anyway, her name is Erin Livingston. She is 28 and works at the post office as a Supervisor. She has OCD and was prescribed medication for it but she doesn’t take them because they make her feel ‘out of sorts’. Her OCD habits include picking lint—even clandestinely off of strangers—and waking up 3 times at night (1am, 3:30am and 5am) to make sure her house is exactly the way she left it. Her marriage is on the rocks. Her husband, Rod, an Alpha-male type, loves her but can’t understand why she refuses to let him lead in even the most insignificant of situations. Erin and Rod rarely have company but when they do have the occasional dinner party she is consumed with anxiety over how the guests are altering things—a smooshed throw pillow here, a haphazardly thrown jacket there—her pulse races as she waits for the opportunity to fix things while no one is watching. Of course Erin wants to appear normal and care free—well at least to have ‘normal’ cares.
Erin and her husband have 2 children, twin girls. Her husband wanted to try one more time for a boy but 2 children is all Erin could fathom handling. She almost had a nervous breakdown in their toddler years.
Erin was molested from the age of 7 to the age of 12. She has never told anyone except for the shrink she started to see last year. She only admitted to herself that maybe she needed professional help when she started ‘cutting’ and a co-worker saw the neat rows of deliberate scars on her forearm.