Friday, September 3, 2010

Looks and Personality

Miss J--Sir Gerald Festus Kelly--1879-1972 Yesterday a good friend of mine flew into the Charlotte airport with a short layover. I figured it would be a great time to catch up with her in person while we had a cup of coffee (there’s a Starbucks right outside of the security check-in.)

While I was waiting for my friend’s plane to land, I was milling around in front of the security checkpoint. I must have looked like I was up to no good at all because a security guard kept leveling suspicious looks at me. Of course, I did carry my huge pocketbook which probably looked like it could house a whole arsenal of weaponry.

A very attractive, well-dressed woman in her twenties with fluffy, blonde hair came hurrying up to the checkpoint. She clutched her boarding pass and the paper shook in her hands.

She was apparently very close to missing her flight and went straight up to the security guard (the one who kept looking at me so suspiciously.) The guard was unwavering and pointed to the end of the long line waiting to go through security. And I thought—well, that’s a missed plane. Because there were at least thirty people in that line waiting to to be checked.

Well, darned if she didn’t go up to each one of those people, sidle by them, asking each time if she could pass them. She had a big, panicky smile on her pretty face.

Every single one of them, man or woman, old or young, beamed back at her and motioned her to pass them with a please pass me! expression. So she ended up as the very first person in the line in slightly over a minute.

Lucky for her, I thought, that she was a very attractive, clearly distraught, well-dressed young woman.

But what if she hadn’t been? What role did her looks play in passing everyone in the line? What if she’d been an unpleasant-looking, scruffy, unattractive man? I’m thinking she’d have missed her plane.

And what role did personality play in that? An equal percentage to looks? Less or more? She caught a whole lot more flies with honey than if she’d used vinegar. I think, honestly, if she’d been a pushy, unpleasant woman with a sense of entitlement for getting to the front of the line, that she never would have made it to the front, pretty or not.

My protagonists are just ordinary-looking people, but they have the ability to fly under the radar. They’re successful at sleuthing because they look so completely innocuous that suspects open up to them and give them clues to solve the cases. And their personalities make them easy to talk to.

How do your protagonist’s looks and personality make a difference in your story? Or…do they make a difference?