Integral Life Coaching

How to Represent Characters in A Memoir

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(824  words – 6 min read)

In a memoir characters are all real. We know them in person, but we only know them from our perspective. My mother’s strict discipline was harsh on me but she was a very kind teacher and a very obedient sister. It is important to show how a person has different roles in her life and shows different aspects of her personality in each role and under different circumstances.

I found that fascinating when I started thinking seriously about it. I personally think everyone should write a memoir to put the pieces of the puzzle of our life together and to understand what happened in our life.  But even if I did not want to write a memoir, I still wanted to know the characters of my story better and not just from my standpoint. I began to look at the story as a whole to find out about the role of people interacting with me as the protagonist of the story. But I needed to remember each person is the center of their world as well. Even though I don’t need to include all aspects of a person’s personality in my story, when I try to put a person in perspective, it helps me to be more realistic and less judgmental about that person. It helps me to remember that person was dealing with her own circumstances at the time. It reminds me how dynamic life is and how circumstances can change quickly in all different directions in one’s life. And that will help me remember to avoid focusing on small issues. That also taught me that things that matter in life are those actions we take that have a long-lasting impact in our life.

So, I started to create a questionnaire in order to know my characters better. I searched a lot and read a lot of existing questionnaires for character building in a novel or a memoir, and then I made the decision to build my own questionnaire to answer my questions about why people in my life did what they did. This will be to explore the character’s behavior and attitude psychologically. I will use generic character building questionnaires to talk about the appearance of my characters but this one is more about their personality traits.

  •        Was I able to be myself in the person’s presence? Why?
  •        Did I let that person be him/herself in my presence? Why?
  •        Was that person more logical or more emotional (impulsive)? How did that impact our relationship?
  •        Was that person fact based or did they believe things easily?
  •        What was that person sensitive about?
  •        Was that person an extravert or introvert? talkative or shy?
  •        Did they warm up in a social event quickly or stay reserved for a while?
  •        Did they approach people or they let people approach them?
  •        What did they do when they were angry? And when they were sad?
  •        Were they competitive in a community (family and friends)? Do they show it or did they deny it?
  •        Were their beliefs more conservative or liberal?
  •        Were they open to new ideas?
  •        Were they direct or passive-aggressive?
  •        Did they express their emotions easily or try to pretend everything was good even when it was not?
  •        Did they have a hobby?
  •        Did they care about liberal arts?
  •        Were they religious? Or follow spirituality? Or atheist?
  •        Were they superstitious?
  •        How long would it take them to make a decision?? Did they overanalyze everything?
  •        How was their financial status?
  •        Were they humble financially (regardless of their financial status)?
  •        Did they help others unconditionally? Or they expect something in return?
  •        Were they judgmental of others or empathetic?
  •        Did they think everyone else is at fault?
  •        Did they like to create a different day every day or they would feel better to follow the same routine everyday with not much change?
  •        Did they hold principles on their values or they would change their values based on the circumstances and audience?
  •        Were they problem solvers or complainers?
  •        Were they punctual or always late?
  •        Was the person persistent?
  •        Did the person consider others’ feelings in his decisions (from the other’s stand point)?
  •        Did the person plan ahead or feel comfortable being spontaneous?
  •        Did the person worry about everything or pretty much relaxed and easy going?
  •        Could you share a secret with that person safely? Without being judged and fear of revealing your secret or taking it against you to their advantage?
  •        Was the person authoritative? Or a teammate and cooperative?
  •        Was the person sophisticated and elegant?
  •        Did the person care to have a simple life or one of luxury?
  •        Was the person possessive over others?
  •        Was the person secretive? Or an open book?
  •        Did the person foreshadow signs of doing something wrong later?
  •        Do I know about that person’s childhood if she/he is an adult?
  •        Who was the most important person in that person’s life?
  •        What did the person do for living? Did it impact his/her opinion about personal life?


Celebrate life!


Editing Credit: M. Curtis

Picture Credit:

Author: Shabnam

Shabnam Curtis was born and raised in Tehran, experiencing the Iranian Revolution of 1979 firsthand. In 2004 she immigrated to the United States, where she now works as a passionate life coach and a writer. Shabnam is a certified Integral Coach with New Ventures West and International Coaching Federation. She offers one-on-one coaching sessions as well as workshops for groups. Since September of 2021, she also has been the life coach in residence for Dimension Science Bridges Non-profit organization.

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