I was wondering the other day if I had to write myself as a character, how would I do it? Which details would I choose to get across the essence of my character, so readers could instantly understand the "type" of character they are dealing with?
Then I thought some more, and realized that I might be a deeply weird person. To wit:
I don't own a cell phone. I have no desire to own a cell phone. It's true that I work from my house, so my need for a cell phone is somewhat obviated, but still. Not including my five-year-old, I'm literally the only person I know who doesn't own a cell phone.
I don't own a watch. I think the last watch I owned was a black plastic digital watch in fourth grade. I hated the way it made the skin on my wrist smell. LIke a belly button, but worse.
I wear no jewelry at all, except a wedding ring. And I didn't start wearing my wedding ring until 3 months ago, after almost ten years of marriage. I don't wear necklaces, bracelets, sunglasses, or earrings either.
I can't stand elastic in almost any article of clothing, and I won't wear clothes that have printed words or images on them.
Given the choice, I'll cut my hair twice a year—so it goes through stages. Very short, almost buzzed, then longish, then truly long. Then I cut it.
I'm terrified of cameras—and yet I've recently discovered that I actually really like doing TV. Somehow, that's not intimidating or scary, but exhilarating. I make weekly TV appearances on a local morning show, BUT I have trouble watching myself back on screen, so I often don't.
Even I think I have bad taste in music, but what can I say? I have the musical taste of a 15-year-old English raver. I like loud beats.
I like extremely spicy food, motion in all its varieties (spinning, roller coasters, even "the spins"), swimming in cold water, and being outside in rainstorms.
People often think I'm distant, which is true, but not for the reason most people think. I'm not unfriendly, shy, introverted, arrogant, or anti-social. The truth is, I'm usually distracted by what else is going on—and by what else, I mean what's going on in the immediate environment. I'm less interested in people than is perhaps socially acceptable.
And it goes on. If I was writing myself as a character, I'd look at this list and think they're mostly quirks. But there's a common theme that runs through all this. My wife would say I have sensory issues; I would say that I'm focused on experience rather than relationship, and I'm overaware of sensory input. This is why I can't wear most jewelry, or carry around things like phones and beepers, why I like strongly flavored foods, and why I have trouble focusing on conversations right in front of my face. It's all too distracting. I can't concentrate when I'm constantly playing with a ring or watch. On the other hand, strong sensations tend to focus me on the moment, and it's nice.
Isn't it like this with characters in books also? What looks like a collection of quirks and oddities is in fact united by a common thread ... a fundamental personality type that has both positives and negatives. It's true that I sound slightly autistic, but I'm also hyper-observant. I rarely miss anything going on around me, even at the expense of the conversation I'm currently sort of having.
So that's what I'm looking for as i write: a uniting thread with my characters that pulls together all the little quirks.