A SINGLE WORD to DEFINE A MOMENT; Quirky Character Traits
© M.C.V. Egan
Defined by Others has two principal characters, Anne and Connie. If you follow my tour, you will get to know Connie as defined by her baking. Anne is a lover of words in multiple languages. I have had the privilege and opportunity to live in four countries, and I am fluent in Spanish, English, French, and Swedish. This makes me quadrilingual.
I gave Anne my four languages and a few others. After all, fiction frees a writer from the constraints of reality. I also gave Anne the quirky habit to define moments in a single word. I did not realize the trait would make her so memorable, as readers often inform me that the book has a side effect that they find themselves searching for the perfect word to define a moment.
Even when characters are not endowed with magical powers or exceedingly criminal minds, it is a useful writing tool to give them a quirky side. Think Kojak; if you are old enough and his lollipop, or Columbo and his sloppy trench coat.
The quirky characteristic can be physical or like Anne, a characteristical trait. I had played with other traits in other characters, but Anne’s came to me naturally, almost like she whispered in my ear. No, it is not about spirits or psychics; it is about being in the writing zone.
I think every fiction writer has had the experience of a feeling that the characters at times seem to guide us, and Anne did that for me, as have other characters. Sometimes when I am writing at times, I might be driving and hear a song that reminds me of a character, and it becomes “our song.”
I often write down in a journal, the quirky characteristics that inspire me, be it from people I observe, I do eavesdrop, in four languages! People I meet, or from movies or other books. I do not copy; I am inspired. I created Anne’s quirk out of the blue.
I also wrote Defined by Others well before Frankie and Grace hit Netflix with a similar premise, the reaction to spouses leaving them as they accept their sexuality as not heterosexual.
I do not give the spouses center stage; they are felt by the pain they leave behind, and otherwise, their presence is minimal. Defined by Others is about trying to survive a painful break up without completely losing yourself.
They say write what you know, and although my first marriage did not end the way Anne and Connie did, I do know and can tap into the pain of a failed marriage. A search for self through introspection.