Sunday, September 30, 2012

Forming Your Character's Distinctive Personality

Vintage Puzzle by Fel1x
Following the post on composite likeness,
I began giving some thought to the next step....Since I am writing about a person I've never met...a black male in a time not my a world with differing social mores...I must find devices to piece together the complete man from a fourteen-year-old boy through the stages of manhood.

Composite Personality
Just as I had morphed the photos of four generations of Carter males to come up with a visual representation of my protagonist's physical appearance, I have overlaid the layers of our elders' comments with observations of living descendants for three generations of Carter men.

Layer 1: Hezekiah Carter (son; deceased)
In the summer of 2004 our family traveled from our home in New England to the Livingston Grand Reunion in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Prior to the in-gathering of the descendants of Frank Livingston, we stopped over in Whiteville, North Carolina to visit with family from the Prince Livingston branch who were unable to attend the reunion.

Our first stop after visiting the Charles Spencer Livingston home place on Fruit Ridge Road was to interview the matriarch of our family's branch. Now Aunt Albertha holds another special place in our family because she is a double aunt. She was married to my husband's paternal Uncle Jesse Carter...and her youngest sister Lillie Stean had married Uncle Jesse's youngest half-brother, my husband's father...Chester Carter.

As my husband and I interviewed Aunt Albertha and Cousin Ruth about the Carter side of the family, our aunt recounted the day she met Hezekiah and Hannah Jane husband's grandparents.

Hezekiah was also our protagonist's third born son of nine surviving children. Born in 1874, Isaac Carter was 35-years-old at his son's birth.
Hezekiah was a very kind, soft spoken man. And you could tell he loved his wife very much. He said he was glad that Jesse had me in his life because his first wife had been so much older...more like a mother figure.
The first wife is a mystery....

 Layer 2: Bert Carter (grandson, oldest son of the first wife; deceased)
Although we attended two George family reunions in North Harlowe, North Carolina, I met our cousin Napoleon online via In a correspondence thread back in February 2011 he said:
I used to visit Miss Hannah when I was small and I knew your Uncle Bert pretty well. And like most Carter men in our family...they had a guess it skipped me...
Layer 3: Chester Carter (grandson, youngest surviving son of the second wife; deceased)
My mother was also so impressed with my father-in-law, stating that he was a fine, distinguished looking man. I will always remember him as a quiet, peaceful man who sacrificed for his family whom he loved dearly. Pushed far enough, however, his anger would flare...but only momentarily. He would take quick, decisive action, and then resume his normal state.

There is a story which he told me years ago when my husband and I were newlyweds, living in their home.... I was suffering from a lung infection caused by a severe allergy to cats. The doctor had told me that even if we got rid of the cat, it would take ten years of vacuuming to rid the carpets of the cat hair and dander unless they were torn up, the floors cleaned, and new carpeting laid down.
Years ago, he said, I was frying a pan of fish and had set it out to cool. I came back into the kitchen later only to find that the cat had eaten the fish! I got angry and Stean yelled, Why don't you just shoot the cat? I think I will, I said, and got my gun. I nearly lost my marriage over that cat, so you'll understand why we don't get rid of it....
Layer 4: Living Carter males (great grandsons)
Though diverse in interests and expression, each of one of the next generation of Carter males has several aspects of personality in common:

  • a deep and sincere faith in God
  • issues they feel passionately about
  • a deep sense of responsibility and love for family
  • a good sense of humor
  • an even-tempered outward disposition
  • enjoyment when interacting with people

Composite temperament for Isaac Carter's character
I see Isaac as a mixture of all these aspects of personality. The challenge will be in finding situations that occurred in his life to visually illustrate these inner facets of personality.

I can see now that I need to devise a check-list to ensure that I reach my scene objectives. For me, this is uncharted territory. . . .


  1. This is really good. keep up the great work of developing your character. I will have to trudge down this road soon enough...Great thing I have a trail blazer ahead of me.

    1. Thanks, Yvette. It really makes you take a long moment to sit back and imagine.