Hey SE Readers. Joan with you today. This is the second in a series of posts about character types. The ideas are taken from my personal observations of people or public knowledge of well-known people. You can click here to read the first of the series, The Attention Seeker.
I think we all know at least one person who fits the category of “I can top that.” No matter what you say, no matter what you’ve done, they have a story to top it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s good or bad, they one up you. As my friend Lisa once said, “If you’ve stuck a nail through your hand, they’ve stuck a railroad spike through theirs.”
You get the picture. Survived a life-threatening illness? They’ve done it twice. Been in a category four tornado? They’ve been through three category fives. Purchased a new car? They’ve bought a more expensive one.
Being around these types is often emotionally draining. Like the attention seeker, they are often insecure and need affirmation. The sad thing is a lot of people don’t pay attention to anything they say because of the endless drama. Even more, nobody wants to be around them.
How would you fit this type of person into a story? I wouldn’t want my protagonist to have this type of personality for fear of alienating readers. You want your readers to like your main characters, flaws and all, but this is a little extreme.
Create a minor (or supportive) character. If you want to redeem the person, have them do something to help your protagonist.
Once when I was on a flight to Tucson there was a woman in the seat behind me who talked endlessly. Before the plane left Dallas, she’d practically told her life story. The two people seated on the aisle with me also noticed. When the man looked in my direction, he didn’t have to say anything. I responded with, “No, she hasn’t come up for air.”
It was one time I was glad to be seated near the engine. The noise drowned out her voice once we took off.
I thought about that incident and later wrote a short story about a young woman whose seatmate was a talkative older woman. By the time they reached their destination, my protagonist discovered the person was simply lonely. They soon struck up a friendship.
While the lady on the Tucson flight wasn’t exactly the “I can top that” person, she certainly had a lot of “almost” unbelievable stories.
What would you do with this type of character? Have you ever written one? Please share in the comments.