When my oldest son was in second or third grade, we lived about two hours from my parents. Whenever we visited, my son would go from room to room pointing out everything that my parents had changed since our last visit.
My son is into the details.
I’m the same way. I notice the bumper stickers and license plate rings on my neighbors’ cars. I watch how people react to each other or how they talk about each other and form opinions on their relationship. I see patterns and logic in things, and often try to hang things on a recognizable framework even if one’s not there (which can be dangerous).
So, it’s always an eye-opener when others don’t look at the world the same way.
You mean you don’t know who I’m talking about if I tell you it was the guy down the street with the red station wagon? The one with the USMC sticker and the Iraq War Veteran plate? The one who apparently enjoys living off base where they don’t measure your lawn length?*
Tony Robbins goes so far as to classify people as sameness or difference people (and some combinations of the two). Here’s the gist as I understand it. Sameness people recognize the similarity between objects or people. Difference people—you guessed it—notice the differences. To make this more clear, here’s the example Mr. Robbins used.
If I throw down a handful of coins and asked people if they were the same or different, here’s what I might get.
Sameness-oriented person: “The same. They’re all coins.”
Difference-oriented person: “They’re all different. One dime, a 1999 nickel, a 2004 nickel, a Wyoming quarter, and an Arizona quarter. Plus a wheat penny and a Canadian penny. And this quarter's all beat up, but the other one is in mint condition.”
I’m betting that sameness people aren’t good with faces unless the variety is huge. (Try telling apart a bunch of men in the same uniform with the same haircut. No wonder they wear name tags!) On the flip side, it stands to reason that even twins might not look alike to an extreme difference person.
The reason I brought all of this up is because I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my characters and I’m trying to figure out how to show their unique personalities through deeper POV. Maybe sameness/difference orientation, or level of attention to detail is one more trait I can use to make my characters unique.
As always, the challenge isn’t in the knowing, it’s in the doing. Thoughts?
*Fictional compilation of real and imagined neighbors. Maybe.