Wacko Wednesdays: Habitual Lateness

Writing Tips
‘Wacko Wednesdays!’ Each Wednesday, Christine Cavalier, a Philadelphia area writer with a Masters degree in Educational Psychology, outlines a different personality quirk for you to consider. Infuse these personality aspects into your characters and bring your writing to a whole new level. Make your characters memorable by adding a little wacky flavor!

From Words Mean Things:
Do you tend to be late or on time? I am pathologically on time – even when I don’t try, I’m there five minutes before I’m supposed to be. My friends, on the other hand, are almost always late. This infuriates me.

From PE Online:

Perennial lateness inhibits success. It’s annoying. It slows progress. And yes, it is disrespectful. Someone once told me: “Being late is one of the most selfish things you can do.” Many people share that opinion. And if it happens to be someone you work with, work for, or sell to—you’re doomed.

Wikipedia writes:

Passive-aggressive personality disorder (also called negativistic personality disorder) is a controversial personality disorder said to be marked by a pervasive pattern of negative attitudes and passive, usually disavowed resistance in interpersonal or occupational situations. It was listed as an Axis II personality disorder in the DSM-III-R, but was moved in the DSM-IV to Appendix B (“Criteria Sets and Axes Provided for Further Study”) because of controversy and the need for further research on how to also categorize the behaviors in a future edition. On that point, Cecil Adams writes:

Merely being passive-aggressive isn’t a disorder but a behavior — sometimes a perfectly rational behavior, which lets you dodge unpleasant chores while avoiding confrontation. It’s only pathological if it’s a habitual, crippling response reflecting a pervasively pessimistic attitude.[1]

A behavior like habitual lateness seems to divide the populace. Some believe that it isn’t any big deal, that’s why people add (or subtract?) 15 minutes to the REAL schedule, so the latecomers can settle in. Others become supremely annoyed at any sign of tardiness by anyone, no matter what the circumstance. I personally say that flexibility is key, a great personality trait for anyone to have. Some people aren’t capable of returning that flexible favor, though, when you are the late one.

Kids especially. Routine-mongers that they are, any crink in the expected schedule can send almost any child into rage. Thankfully, most of us grow out of it. But what if your character hasn’t gained the flexibility one needs to “roll with the punches” in life? On the other hand, what if your character is habitually late? What if these two polar opposites were related? An on-time employee and an always-late boss? An on-time wife and a lagging husband?

Your personal approach to being on-time to things is fantastic fodder for your character building. Make sure to write the opposite approach into at least one character. Everyone knows this tension; I myself have a friend that I will never drive with again, because she made us to whatever functions we were attending. It’s quite a dodging dance when I think up excuses as to why we can’t carpool. It seems rude and accusatory to actually tell her the truth, so I have to come up with plausible reasons why I want to destroy the environment and take two cars. I’m sure you have similar experiences you can draw upon. The Late/On-Time debate is built-in tension.

Ask yourself, why is my character always ten minutes (early or) late for everything? Are they early because they fear they’ll “miss” something? Doesn’t looking overeager matter to them? Or, is my character trying to avoid a situation? Who at this party does she hate and not want to see and why? Does my character come from a different culture that disregards schedules (Latin America) or sticks to schedules like white on rice (Germany?)

So don’t feel blocked by character traits. As an observant citizen of the world you already have enough knowledge of the inner workings of human personality on which to build great characters.

Sorry for my late post. I’ll try not to make a habit of it!

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One thought on “Wacko Wednesdays: Habitual Lateness

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