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Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday Musings - Layers of Personality

My fans know I am a people watcher, and I often get ideas for characters by observing other people, noting their quirks and habits, and interweaving traits with those of others. It's often through people watching that I am able to develop multi-layered personalities for the characters in my books.

A few years ago I worked for a short time with a woman who was physically very attractive; the kind of woman one would envision as a beauty pageant contender when younger. She was very outgoing, always had a smile on her face, and always greeted people with a big wave of the arm and a "hello" you couldn't miss for a quarter of a mile.

She'd been born in a very rural area into a family who could barely make ends meet and raised by extended family members. But she'd "married well" as my aunts used to say, and found herself one of the nouveau riche.

That's where the plot thickens.

As I worked with her, I found out that every morning and several times throughout the day, she checked on all of her holdings to find out how much more money had been earned while she slept or had her nails manicured. She became obsessed with money to the point that nothing else mattered to her.

She and some of her family members were near my table at a signing and she kept the broad, beautiful smile on her face, called across to everyone she knew, all the while whispering to those closest to her horrible things about each person. If they weren't dressed to the hilt, or as beautiful as a movie star, or had as much money as the Rockefellers, she was witheringly critical.

I never said a word nor does she know I overheard her. But I logged the information into the back of my mind. What better antagonist in a book than a beautiful woman who no one would ever suspect, but who has a dark, subversive personality seething just under the surface?

What do you think is more dangerous - an antagonist who looks the part or one who seamlessly blends in with their surroundings?