Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Did your character mean to give that first impression?

Reading Caroline Kauffman's interesting article on Impression Management spoke about how people try to leave a certain impression and can sometimes fail horribly. For example, I might think that I look confidant and suave in my three-piece suit and sunglasses but others might think I look stodgy, unfashionable, sexy, or eccentric. It's such a fun source of conflict that people don't use nearly as much as they should. Sit-coms and comedians do it all the time. They understand that the contrast between the impression that a character thinks they leave on people (tough guy) and the actual impression (whiney kid) can be incredibly entertaining.

I had a think about my own novel and realized that there are several entertaining moments (at least I think so) in my story that revolves around this. The most obvious one involves the lad who wants to appear as a dashing gentleman who'd sweep any lady off their feet ... and comes across as a leering adolescent who quotes other people's poetry poorly. There's also the young woman who firmly believes she's coming across as an empathic and friendly companion who can truly understand who people are ... and comes across as an emotionless and creepily overly-analytical ethereal being.

Do you have any characters who leaves a decidedly different first impression than the one they intended? Is it humorous? Or have you managed to do it in a way that's more serious or sinister?


  1. Shannon, this is really a good post and topic of interst. We read so much of the same content on so many different writing blogs (Please don't take this wrong) I enjoy all post I read and I usually learn something helpful, but this topic is not one I have seen at all-and I read a lot of blogs.

    This is a fresh approach to writng tips for aspiring writers and published authors as well. I have certainly noticed this in real life (the geeky looking attorney in court who thinks he looks as professional and confident as some of the better attorneys, but in reality he looks out of place in his outdated oversized suit) and he has no idea people are making fun of him. This is just one of many examples.

    I have not incorporated this into my own novel in progress, but I wil now. Good Post. I love it when I come across something helpful that I never would have thought of on my own. Thanks


  2. It's such a simple thing and so often overlooked. We get so wound up in trying to understand our own characters, that we forget they're mysteries to the other characters in the story. Just because one character might literally be a great person to confide in, doesn't mean they give that impression.