Tuesday, September 27, 2011


When authors are having trouble coming up with interesting characters, the advice is usually to go to the mall and ease-drop on conversations.  Well, I’m here say—you need to have a garage sale!

At garage sales, you meet the most diverse types of people.  Here’s a few of the unique individuals that showed up to my recent sale: 

The Picker This person comes to purchase anything collectable for antique shops.  He dresses down for the occasion, has very little to say, and tries to remain inconspicuous as he scopes out items you might not have realized were valuable.  This person acts nonchalant, as if it doesn’t matter one way or the other whether he finds a great buy, while secretly dying inside that he’s found a treasure.
The Addicted-To-Sales Shopper This person shows up all wild-eyed with excitement, looks over everything quickly and then dashes off to the next sale.  He goes to sales all the time, and It’s all about the excitement of the hunt.
The Bargain Hunter This person is looking to save a few dollars on something he needs.  He doesn’t want you to notice his nice SUV, and he always offers you less, no matter how low you have your items marked.  He lingers, checks over every last item, and he loves to wheel-and-deal.
The Thief This person isn’t the poor person who might desperately need something but can’t afford it.  He’s a natural-born liar and thief, and he doesn’t mind doing it right in front of his children.
The Honest Shopper This person doesn’t mind buying something that needs a little work, as long as it’s quality.  He doesn’t dicker on prices, if he thinks it’s fair, and he doesn’t want something for nothing. If he feels you haven’t charged enough, he will pay you more money.  He will comment that he doesn’t feel right about it.
The Underprivileged This person has a chip on his shoulder because he resents that you have so much to give away.  They hardly speak and they never say thanks.
The Social Buyer This person comes more to look, listen and talk.  He doesn’t have anything specific he’s looking to buy, and he’ll talk your ear off.
The Happy Shopper This person doesn’t have a lot of money, and he needs usable items.  He’s friendly, easy-going, doesn’t dicker on prices and is grateful for what he buys.
The Pack-Rat This person just has to have things.  And if it’s a good deal, all the much better. He buys quickly and buys in bulk.
So there you have it.  But what does that have to do with characterization? Based on these garage sale goers, you can find the following strengths and weaknesses:

  • The Picker Arranger, Commander, Learner
  • The Addicted-To-Sales Shopper Activator, Competitor
  • The Bargain Hunter Achiever, Deliberator, Responsible
  • The Thief Restorative, Self-Assured, Strategic, Manipulator
  • The Honest Shopper Strong Beliefs, Empathy
  • The Underprivileged Significance, Relator, Entitled
  • The Social Buyer Adaptable, Communicator, Developer
  • The Happy Shopper. Connected, Balanced, Positive
  • The Pack-Rat Collector, Maximizer 

The terms listed next to our garage sale goers comes from the book, Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath. This is an excellent book to help you understand how your characters might think, act and feel.

Think about strengths and weaknesses the next time you’re delving into character descriptions.  Too often as writers, we base all of our characters on the same value system as our own. The world is made up of all kinds of unique characters, and just like in real life, we need to be understanding of characters who think a little differently than we do.

Good luck with your writing.

Cindy A. Christiansen
Sweet Romance, Comedy, Suspense…and Dogs!
Fly into a good book at:  www.dragonflyromance.com


  1. Great info! Never thought of the comparisons but a couple of vivid characters popped in my head. Thanks Cindy.

  2. A cute post, Cindy. People watching is always fascinating.

  3. Now this is something I hadn't considered before! :)


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