What Makes You Memorable?

IMG_0642A fiction writer spends an excessive amount of time painting pictures on the blank page. In their tool-kits are nouns, pronouns, and action verbs, hopefully limited adverbs, to be verbs, and other extraneous fillers that clutter the page and drown the reader in a sea of passive verbs.

We also spend a scary number of hours in the pages of a thesaurus hunting down the perfect word for the scene, or the exact word a character would use in a heated exchange. Mostly we are looking for a word that promises to linger in the subconscious of the reader after their eyes have breezed over it. It shouts, speaks volumes, and if the situation warrants, it whispers sweet nothings. After all red is nothing quite like crimson, is it?

And when it comes to character development, we labor to create memorable heroines and heroes that will haunt the reader long after the last page is turned and the book returns to the shelf. It’s one of the secrets in crafting a fabulous story.  What stands out in your mind when someone mentions Gone with the Wind?  Is it Tara, or Scarlet and Rhett?

But what is it about the character that lingers? Is it their body shape? Is their habit of dress or their facial expressions? Do they have a nervous tic?  Are they quirky, powerful, merciless, OCDC, manic, self-unaware, introspective, self-depreciating, empathetic, goody two-shoes. Is the character flawless to the point of boredom?  Even Atticus Fitch had a flaw or two.  It’s not their beauty we remember, it’s their humanness, which we relate to and hold on to decades after reading the book.  What makes a character memorable can drive a writer to the brink of emptying the twelve-cup coffee pot or eating a party size bag of M&M’s in a single session if she/he can’t find the tell of a person.

I wondered as only a writer does who has had her third cup of coffee, how is this any different from what makes a person, you or me for instance, memorable in another’s eyes. If Dylan Tomas were talking about his Caitlin, he might say she was a true rebel who didn’t give a damn about what anybody thought and did exactly as she pleased without consideration.  If that’s all you know about Caitlin Tomas, it’s sufficient information for you to fill in the missing details about the type of person she was without Dylan having to paint a portrait.

But let’s get back to our own self-portraits and what would make the real you memorable. If Margaret Mitchell or Harper Lee were writing a second novel and decided to cast you as the lead, what would your tell be? For a moment or two, consider yourself in glorious color, both the light and dark hues. How would an author describe you?  Honestly, what would the good, the bad, and the not so pretty details of your persona be?mmm1



Are you still breathing?

It’s one thing to say, “I’m 5’6’’, my eyes are the color of dark chocolate, and I wear my inky colored hair long hair with streaks of aubergine. Good or bad, my hips are perfect for holding babies, and I have the sort of laugh that draws unwelcome attention—like glares and a strategically tossed handful of popcorn—in a dark movie theater. I have a nasty habit of asking inappropriate questions at the wrong time, and can fall truly, madly, and deeply in love, with a sentence.   That’s the easy part. Now trying looking inside of yourself for the grit of who you are and what is that makes you real. Once you’ve arrived the destination of you, you’re exactly where the writer is when she/he is looking for traits inside of herself or others, to exploit on the pages of the story being written.

What would your self-portrait look like if you were to paint a picture with your words?   Just kidding.  What’s your tell? 


Self-portraits provided by Caitlin Elisabeth Granger, aspiring photographer, daughter of Brenda, and student of the world.

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I’m a writer and hoarder of one-size-fits-all panty hose. Until the hose fits over my bum, I write to provide an alternative view on writing and perfection.

23 thoughts on “What Makes You Memorable?

  1. The word that keeps coming back to me is abundance. I like to think of myself as a woman of abundance, of abundant breasts, hips, thighs, of abundant blonde hair tangling in the breeze, abundant smiles and laughter and passion, of strong loyalties and quiet obsessions. I love fiercely, if not always wisely, and leave no one guessing as to my thoughts and feelings, spilling them out in a torrent of words.
    Beverly Diehl recently posted….Kinky Drinks & Grown-Up Toys #NSFWMy Profile

  2. For me, quirks make the person. They are what make us different, what make us stand out in a crowd. That’s why I embrace mine. My self-portrait would include the barely noticeable scar on my right cheek from when I was bitten in the face by a dog. I looked like Frankenstein at my own college orientation and in a way it was a good thing. People got to know me for me. Those stitches masked my face and made people see who I really am. Also, it taught me not to be vain. Appearance isn’t everything. It was a valuable lesson to learn. And that’s probably why I would never have a self-portrait done and why I don’t like to be in pictures very often. I don’t value appearance very much.
    Kelly Hashway recently posted….Vanquished by Katie Clark & Take Me Now by Faith SullivanMy Profile

  3. Those are great points, Brenda. I think my best characters are based upon my quirks. I have trouble creating characters I don’t know.

    What you said about finding the perfect word is so true. I obsess on finding that one perfect word. Sometimes so much it hurts my head and I have to step away from the keyboard. Letting sentences simmer for a while helps. Doing mundane chores like loading the dishwasher really clears my head.

    I’m quirky: obsessive-compulsive, insecure, passionate, impulsive, creative and funny at times. I question everything and am suspicious by nature because of it. I also get really hyper at times, like now for instance. I’ve got a lot of stuff going on in my noggin and around it, too.
    Lauren recently posted….The Week That Hit The FanMy Profile

  4. Goodness, Brenda, what a loaded question that is! It’s funny when I think about it, but the character, Kate, in The Glade Series, is a lot like me, except she worries much more than I do these days. Maybe, she’s more my me of the past.
    Anyway, you’ve certainly given us all much food for thought here.
    Beautifully written, as always, my friend, and I loved your daughter’s photo – clever!
    Love and blessings!
    Martha Orlando recently posted….“I Sowwy, Gammie!”My Profile

  5. –I do not want or desire to read about a character who is not “flawed” in some way or another. This is what makes the character memorable, interesting, relatable, and quirky.

    I want to read about women like me….women who I can relate with.

    –I am continually interested in flawed characters who overcome their situations…

    Women whom, even though imperfect, transform the freaking world.

    Xxxx LOVE.
    My Inner Chick recently posted….Tattoo’d LadyMy Profile

  6. What a great post! I agree, it’s the humanness of our characters, their heart and soul and demons, that make us care about them. Myself? I don’t know. Sometimes I identify with the unobserved observer, and like to melt into the background, but that certainly wouldn’t win me any readers if that was my “character.”

    I think some people would describe me as quiet and soft-spoken, others as caring and courageous, others as a radical leftist hothead, others as passionate and persistent. I see myself sometimes as a smooth reflective surface beneath which a chaos of competing urges and emotions roil.
    Deborah J. Brasket recently posted….Living on the Edge of the WildMy Profile

  7. Dale Holbook

    “In making the decision to have children, his parents showed total disregard for obvious familial genetic tendencies.”

  8. **Mostly we are looking for a word that promises to linger in the subconscious of the reader after their eyes have breezed over it. It shouts, speaks volumes, and if the situation warrants, it whispers sweet nothings. After all red is nothing quite like crimson, is it?**

    Your words always jump of the page and stay with me!

  9. Well, first of all, I laughed out loud at the thought of you getting handfuls of popcorn thrown at your head in a movie theater. hahaha

    And then I’m anxious, in an anxiety ridden manner, at what I would be like to write up as a main character. I’m going to have to write about that. What a thoughtful, cringe-worthy meditation.
    Barbara recently posted….Second Saturday in SistersMy Profile

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