A charcter’s habits provide a shorthand approach for the reader to identify and indentify with a character. And often the best places to get those quirks and habits that make characters 3-Dimensional are from observing people. Within the last couple of days, I’ve watched a particular habit that was expressed three different ways but vented the same emotion–frustration.
The scenario: A person is sitting at the computer. They must enter a password (that has not been saved) to enter their account.
Person 1 presents their case with words, violence, and a healthy dose of paranoia. He shouts at the computer screen, “What do you mean doesn’t match? Of course it matches. I haven’t changed it. See.” Types in password again. Receives same errror message. Begins pounding on keyboard with flattened hands and yells, “You’re so stupid!”
Occassionally followed by the statement, squeezed through gritted teeth, that the computer isn’t working properly and could I check it for a virus.
Person 2 has obviously been through anger management training. He shouts at the computer screen, “What do you mean doesn’t match? Of course it matches. I haven’t changed it. See.” Types in password again. Receives same errror message. Shoves back chair and flails arms and legs, but doesn’t touch machine or other objects in the room. Usually shouts, “I hate computers! I hate them.”
Follow by, “Does anyone remember the stupid password for….
Person 3’s personality presents itself in a different way. No sound is made until the third entry then there’s a low growl and both index fingers emerge. There is a sharp, powerful stab at the appropriate keys while bared teeth are reflected in the monitor. The enter key is pecked once then the index fingers point accusingly at the computer. Finally the user’s chair creaks, there’s a mutter about intelligence (often open to interpretation of who’s or what’s has been insulted) and the next window begins to open.
By reflecting this kind of reaction in all of the story’s frustrating moments, a reader will be able to identify the character without the author stating their name and maybe get a giggle out of it too.