The Usual Non-suspects
We’re all characters. While sometimes we play different roles in our lives, our inherent who-we-are always shows up any time we’re a part of a friendly group event. I love to sit back and watch the emails fly when any group of my friends plans an event. And when it comes to event time, let the hi-jinks happen!
This week, as my undergrad group of friends tries to plan a vacation, I am reminded of the characters all of us humans can become. Do you see any of these in your group of friends?
- The Planner. The planner of the group usually doesn’t have the idea (sometimes she does, but most of the time she doesn’t), but ends up doing the legwork to get the event together. This is usually because the planner has an obsessive need to. . .plan. Nothing should be left to chance: the food, the hotel, the spontaneous (?) fun. But most of all, the planner wants something to actually get done. And she knows if she doesn’t do it, it won’t happen.
- The Cheerleader: A lot of times the cheerleader will have an idea. Most of the time, the idea will be a good one. And a lot of times, the cheerleader will be right alongside to see the idea to fruition. But the cheerleader cannot do much more than cheer. She’s great when you need a boost or a confirmation, but do not ask her to do any tactical work, any logistics, or get anyone prepared…not even herself. This is because a lot of times, the cheerleader doesn’t do well with the negative side of planning: people not being prepared, people not wanting to adjust, the legwork it takes to plan, the negative Nancys that are sure to spring up to ruin a plan.
- The Negative Nancy (or Ned): This character loves to talk about why something can’t be done. Or more importantly, why she can’t do it. A lot of times, the Negative Nancy is insecure or just not equipped to handle a group event. Social Anxiety Disorder is a real thing (so nothing to joke about), but it manifests itself in interesting and funny ways. Sometimes the Negative Nancy is being negative about an event because she doesn’t want to do it, but she doesn’t want to outright say so. But on the other hand, Negative Nancys don’t like being left out.
- The Overbooked: Even if your group of friends is a socially unpopular group, there’s always one person who has her calendar full. It’s probably because she doesn’t know how to say no. Or maybe it’s because she likes being invited, and she wants to keep being invited. Who doesn’t like that feeling that the party doesn’t start without them? It’s a wonderful rush. Maybe she is really just that popular–you want her around, maybe everyone else does, too. However, too much popularity causes this character to frequently overbook herself. So either she cancels on you at the last minute (after she’s weighed her options) or she’s at the event, phone stuck to her hand, constantly leaving the group to take a call or pausing to answer a text.
- The Invisible One: no, this is not a superhero convention; this is just a group of friends hanging out! But there’s always one person in the group that when you are supposed to meet somewhere you always have to ask about her. She’s never there when everyone is ready to board or ready to be seated. “Where’s [X]?” you ask. “Did we lose [X]?” “Who has [X’s] phone number? Somebody call or text her!” She’s a mysterious one, this character. She may be off somewhere planning world domination with Pinky and The Brain. Or she may just be making out with someone. Who knows?
- The Realist: There’s usually more than one of this character to a group, and they come in all different types. There’s the joiner, the janitor, the contributor, the blunt voice. These are the characters that don’t need to be the center of attention, but they act like the glue that help make a group event come together. They usually have 1 or 2 special group-focused skills that they use to keep things moving: helping the planner execute the plan, helping find the invisible one, or helping balance the mood/morale of the group. And every now and then, a realist will have at least one wild or funny moment worthy of a selfie (or a paragraph).
As a writer, I love to see these characters come together when an event is on the horizon. I love to see the interaction and the feelings all around. It’s more dramatic and funnier than any “reality TV” show. And when you’re part of it, it makes for a memorable time and a great story.