By Annette Rey
When I write a profile of a person I know, I go into extreme detail. Following is an example of what I do.
“Born in 1925, she lived on a rural farm, and attended a one-room schoolhouse. One younger sister, was never too close to her. High school senior class composed of 25 students. Married during WWII years, husband returned after the war. Worked as a stenographer in his absence. When he returned, they discovered they hardly knew one another and divorced.
Still in her twenties, she met a man in his forties and married him. He had adult children, just a few years younger than her. She bonded with one of the daughters and was hated and resented by the other. Their brother was on her side, whatever Dad wanted. Dad, her new husband, was divorced, his wife having suffered from debilitating mental illness.
Through the years, she and her husband took in various family members temporarily, both adult and married with their new babies for a full year plus a few months, and 2nd grade nephews for a summer or two.
Six years after marrying, she delivered a baby boy, the entire joy of her life. She was a competent woman and mother. Very sensible. She dealt with serious physical illnesses including breast cancer back when the medical approach was radical bilateral mastectomy. She suffered through bladder cancer.
She and her husband traveled worldwide.
She had a small dog named Timmy.
When her son was in college, she took in her mentally ill sister, for about six years. It was a difficult time, but she never talked about it much, or complained. She’s not a pushover, but she also does not complain. Her sister died.
A few years after that, her husband suffered at home with congestive heart failure. She watched him struggle to breathe and held him as he died.
She lived 35 years after his death, attended church, knitted sweaters for children in South America (it’s cold in the mountains), and served the community.
She always, though, found time for herself. She was a meticulous dresser and preferred the monochromatic style. Her step-daughter liked to say, “You’ll never see her with a hair out of place.” She played cards with ladies in the community, bridge and gin rummy.
She outlived her family members and some of her step family and, sadly, including the daughter she befriended.
Upon her step daughter’s death, she took in her dog, Buddy.
She is a principled, steady, regal woman without the bearing of arrogance. I have seen her become impatient – not often – when dealing with the difficulties of advancing poor health. Still, I have never heard her complain.
Anyone who knows her says the same thing in different words, it is an honor to know her and she is an example for all to emulate.
This profile sounds saintly. I told her so. Her humbleness replied, “I really have you fooled.”
She just turned 93. Ninety-three years of love and service and wisdom.
A hard act to follow.”
From this profile, I could easily create a character and make her a heroine or a secretly seriously flawed human being. I could involve her in a murder or send her to college and on an overseas adventure. I could create family incidents, wild or calm. What I do know about her is a blueprint that would guide me to write consistent reactions to circumstances in which I would place her.
Using a person you know gives you already prepared details. All you have to do is plug him into a story, embellishing as you go.
Whatever you do, this exercise gets you writing!
So, give this a try.