The other day, I watched the clip for THE UNITED STATES OF TARA. It's a series on SHOWTIME about a woman with DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder). Click here to check our more information on the disorder. They use to call it Multiple Personality Disorder. One person with two or more unique personalities.
When I was a kid, I watched THE THREE FACES OF EVE. I found it fascinating how a person could split off into different personalities to deal with stress or situations her mind could no longer handle.
I believe we all have the capability to do this and some of us (if not all) do this in small ways.
Let me explain further. As an adult, when we visit with our parents, we're often seeking assurance they love us or we're reverting back to being the child, wanting their approval. Anyway, the way we talk and respond to our parent is different than the way we would be to a co-worker or our child or a stranger. True, we wouldn't be different to the extreme as Eve or Tara, but we change and show different aspects of our united personality.
I've thought about this quite often over the years for as I was growing up my parents divorced and dated and/or married different people, I found ways to cope with the different personalities coming and going out of my life. And this includes my husband's parents and his brothers and sisters and their different spouses. Lots and lots of people as some were married several times. Like many people I wanted to get along with everyone and learned how to deal with many of them. How did I do this?
Let me give you an example. Yesterday, I stopped at a local gas station to pick up some ice. The ice maker in my frig no longer works and I've paid twice to get it fix over the years and refuse to do it again. I want a new one, but I'll have to wait. Anyway, the woman behind the counter was talking with another woman and I could tell they were what you could call Earthy. Me, being the type with unrealistic goals (have everyone like me), I say, "Howdy," and proceed to lay on a thick Southern accent. I'm told that most of the time my accent isn't heavy. It's there but more of a city version. I don't drop many g's and rarely say ya'll. In this case, I was using the Red Neck version. The woman smiled and we talked about the beautiful weather.
I don't really think about, I just do it. If I was meeting with customers, no matter where they're from, my accent is in the background you could say. Hovering nearby and noticeable but not overbearing.
When I use to work for another company, I called the company's other factory in Belfast almost every day. During the conversations, I'd make sure to speak clearly and distinctly. My co-workers use to tease me and say by the end of the call I even had an Irish accent. LOL! All part of trying to fit in.
Okay, now to come to how this pertains to writing. As this facet is part of all of us, we all do it in our own way, we need to make our characters do the same. Now if you think this wouldn't make your character believeable or consistent, think of this. How often have we seen the big alpha male get all soft and tender with a baby or child? He can act like a jerk with the heroine (hopefully for a good reason) and be the hero for the little boy. It's all part of layering, changing that cardboard character into a real person, good or bad.