Today is sort of a holiday for me. It would be my Grandma Alyse's birthday—88--and anyone who had been here for any length of time knows my grandma was probably my favorite person ever. I think grandparents and grandchildren have the best relationship, because it has all of the love, but none of the pressure of those parent child relationships.
But I wasn't the only person to think my grandma was fabulous. My grandma had that tricky-to-identify thing... charisma... that just made people want to be near her.
What is it that makes some people so absolutely appealing? Why do we want to be near them? Just yearning for some of... whatever it is to... rub off? Are we basking in their glow?
THAT is what I thought might be fun to explore.
This doesn't hurt, I gotta be honest. Many leaders in the Cult of Personality are quite attractive, yet... there are a lot of great looking people who miss the boat, and there are ENOUGH not-particularly-attractive folks who manage.
My grandma was darling... cute as a button... but NOT a classic beauty. She had high apple cheeks and a round face and curly hair... she wore very thick glasses by her teens... maybe younger... none of the classic traits of, say... Sophia Lauren. She might have given Vivian Leigh a run for her money on that mischievous smirk, but she was no lady in the classic sense. I know for a fact she played basketball in high school (if you only have 23 people in your high school class, they want you to play, even at 5'3”) and my most strong recurrent memory is her looking at my grandpa (with the mischievous look) and saying, “Clay, go to hell!”
Yet she had FOUR male pen pals away at war (World War 2), all trying to woo her from afar... My grandpa was only her favorite of her hopeful suitors.
I think this really only matters to climbers. I mean I get that it is only freaks like me who see it as a recommendation AGAINST somebody, but I think the only people who give a damn are the people who give a damn, if you know what I mean. I don't know... I haven't run across many, growing up in the west where everybody comes from lines of exiled mutts. There are some posers, but the rest of us sort of had a sixth sense for sniffing out that nonsense. [my apologies to any well bred bloggers who may have stumbled in here by accident. I would never hold it against you for BEING well-bred, only for CARING about being well-bred].
Whatever the case, my grandma was one of seven from a farming family in Iowa, outside a town that, as hinted above was VERY small (Seneca, maybe? *snickers* just looked that up and the population in 2000 was 649 and the location, not too far south of the Minnesota border is right, so yeah... Seneca.)
I think this is key, but I don't think it is the class clowns or (necessarily) the politicians, leaders, or star athletes. I think we are looking for something more subtle. I don't think charisma very often comes humor free, but I think the 'performers' have a contrary trait... as do a lot of the political sorts and leaders... the star athletes...
All those SORTS are attention centers. They draw all eyes to them.
I think charisma is entirely more subtle.
Charisma is a REFLECTION that makes people who come near the person feel important... it is true interest in conversations. It is remembering what people have said. It is making everybody encountered come away feeling like THEY are better. And this is no superficial complimenting thing... this is... well... it's charisma.
Yeahno... we don't have this. Well, maybe a couple *cough*Leigh*cough* but mostly we are too introverted. We are too lost in our tales to remember people with corporeal form.
But that doesn't mean this isn't useful... KNOWING this can help us with characters... you want a magnificent, charismatic lead? I suggest you show this NOT by the characteristics you bestow on your MC (other than an apparent sincere interest in others), but by the response others have... we don't want to inspire admiration or lust or envy, but a sense of BEING IMPORTANT, INTERESTING, SMART OR BEAUTIFUL because the admiration of our MC makes it so.
See, grandma, you didn't just help me. You're helping all my writer buddies! I love you!