Character Types: The Attention Seeker

Hey SE Readers. Joan with you today. I love character-driven fiction. All stories need a good plot, but when characters are flat, the story falls flat with me. This is the first of a series of posts about different character types. All are from my personal observations.

One of my favorite pastimes is people watching. Sitting in a shopping mall or airport is often best, but you can observe people anywhere—restaurants, sporting events, community gatherings, family get-togethers. If possible, I like to have a notebook or something to make notes in.

Back in my “want to be a writer” days, I kept a writing journal. Most of it was commiserating about what I wanted to happen, but occasionally I’d record observations. Here’s an entry from 2009.

“I’m at the coffee shop enjoying a warm fire, a cup of cinnamon cocoa, Aussie bites, and music. It’s a great place to observe people. Unfortunately, it tends to get a bit noisy – there are always those who love attention. Like the person who started the fireplace. I guess he thought he was being funny, but he was a bit overdramatic and definitely called attention to himself. As the flames rose, he looked as if he was conducting an orchestra into a crescendo. Then there is a woman with four children. All appear to be under the age of six. Wow, does she have her hands full! Some teenagers are standing in line and talking loudly. I made the mistake of sitting near the counter, but if I wanted total quiet, I would have gone to the library.”

Twelve years later, I still picture the guy at the fireplace, think about the woman and her brood of kids, and hear the giggles of the teenagers. Character ideas? You bet. In today’s post, I’ll focus on the attention seeker.

We’ve all met them. Those that must be the center of attention. I’m not qualified to delve into the psychological aspects, but there are several reasons why a person might be this way. They could have come from a large family and felt overshadowed by their older or younger siblings (middle child syndrome). Maybe they weren’t popular in school and it’s their way to shine. A third possibility is insecurity. They need affirmation and will go to great lengths to get it.

Would this type of person make a good character? Absolutely! Imagine an insecure protagonist. She wants to be accepted and because of this sometimes makes poor choices in relationships. Have the character face a turning point where she’s hit rock bottom and is forced to make a choice. She can continue making the same mistakes or choose to turn her life around.

You could also use the insecure personality for your antagonist. He or she could be someone who was bullied and they now seek revenge. They might even become a serial killer.

No two people placed in the same situation will react the same way. As a writer, the possibilities for your characters are endless.

What’s your experience with attention-seeking types? Have you written one into your stories? Please share in the comments.

54 thoughts on “Character Types: The Attention Seeker

  1. I think the closest I have gotten to a character who fits in this category was Mel. She was sassy and exuded confidence, but internally, she was suffering. I know several people who are extreme extroverts and show the world that they have complete confidence when the reality is they are insecure or emotionally withdrawn. Many movies use this type of character as well (for instance, the bully who is hurting inside). This look likes it’s going to be a great series to explore, Joan! 🙂

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  2. Pingback: #ReblogAlert – This Week on #StoryEmpire | The Write Stuff

  3. Sorry I’m late to comment, Joan, but it’s been another of “those” weeks. I love this idea for a series and am looking forward to following along. You’re off to a great start with attention seekers. I’m not sure I’ve ever written one, myself, but I can see the possibilities. I’ve had several characters who were insecure, for sure, but they were more the “hide in the background” sorts, I think. I’m going to have to ponder how to include someone deliberately seeking attention in my next book. Might even have room in my current (very slow moving) WIP. Thanks for the ideas! Great post!

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  4. I do enjoy people watching:) The attention seekers do standout. I tend to see them as the one who pushes the main characters buttons. They offer a lot of depth in a story. Great post, Joan 🙂

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  5. Sorry I’m so late getting to this. I love your take on character types, and the attention-seeker is a great one. I’ve never thought about adding this particular person to my novels before, but now I kind of want to. Great post, Joan.

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  6. I think most writers are people watchers, Joan, and airports have always been a great place to do it, but I haven’t been in one for months. Your comments about attention seekers are useful. I haven’t included a character like this into either of my two books or any of my short stories, but I’m sure the time will come.

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  7. I haven’t written anything with the attention seeker, but I worked with one for almost 20 years. I think of the things he would do, the regular things and the “on-demand” things and you’re right, I could use all of those. He was a case where all of them at once might not be believable fiction. Great post, Joan.

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  8. Great post, Joan. I have written that person into a short story or two. I even know that person. I prefer to blend into the background, but some people just can’t do that.

    I love to people watch. One of my favorite places is when I go with my dad to the local casino. You would be surprised what you can see and learn.

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  9. Love people-watching! Great fodder for novels. This isn’t fiction but the killer in the true crime book I’m writing is an over-the-top attention seeker. I’m hoping that trait/flaw will be impossible for him to resist, and he’ll agree to an interview. 😉

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  10. Right away, I wanted to know more about some guy who would randomly start a fire in a coffee shop. Who said he could do that? If nobody, then what is he up to doing? All in all, looking forward to more. Thanks, Joan.

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  11. Excellent post, Joan. I’m the opposite of an attention seeker, but when I’m with them, I do a lot of interior groaning and move away as soon as I can. Your character idea fascinates me. I just might try to include an attention seeker in one of my stories. We’ll see. 😊

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  12. What a wonderful post, Joan! Since I am heading to the airport tomorrow, I will be in full-on people-watching mode. As for the attention seekers, I’ve known quite a few in my lifetime and I tend to avoid them and try to shrink into the shadows. I don’t think I’ve written a story with this type of character yet. 🙂 I say yet because I can see where they would make a great character to bring to their knees. Thank you for sharing!

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  13. Pretty sure I’ve written this type, but I’ve never made it the focal point. I think of my arrogant characters who have to gloat or put on a show. Maybe most action adventure characters require some attention. It does seem like they put extra effort into being larger than life.

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  14. I am going to enjoy this series. I love people watching and rarely get the chance these days. Airports are wonderful for this. I don’t think I’ve ever written a main character like this. Most of mine have a reason to fade into the background. Lizzie St. Laurent is close with her band, but there are times when she moves around in darkness. Tanith is a supporting character and she is closer to the mark. Lisa Burton is naïve more than extroverted, but doesn’t seek the spotlight. I have some character sketches that are more like you describe, but haven’t used them yet. Great idea for a series.

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  15. I’m usually oblivious to my surroundings (which isn’t the best thing to be, especially in this day and age) so I don’t do a lot of people watching, but I am familiar with the attention-seeker. Have I ever written one? Oh, yes! Merlin Breckbill, one of four brothers in my book Myth and Magic, was definitely an attention-seeker. I have to admit he was a fun character to write. I also have a close relative who loves to be the center of attention. We joke that wherever he goes he works the room and “holds court.”

    Great post, Joan. I’m looking forward to the whole series!

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  16. Joan, I love to people watch, too, and like Audry, it got me into trouble once. Once I was at a romantic (supposed to be) dinner and couldn’t focus on my significant other because I was mesmerized by the couple next to us who were engaged in a nasty fight. That relationship of mine didn’t fare well, but, guess what – he was an attention seeker anyway, and pretty exhausting to be around. Interesting characters are everywhere! I am reading Cold Dark Night now, Joan, and it is full of great characters! Thanks for this insightful post!

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  17. I love to people watch in order to come up with story ideas. Years ago, I worked with the biggest attention seeker I’ve ever met. As someone who is quiet and prefers to listen rather than speak, he drove me bananas! I always thought he was insecure.

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  18. I sometimes try to make up someone’s backstory when I’m watching them. Perhaps the couple walking a few feet apart had an argument before leaving home (about what?). Or maybe they aren’t a couple, but collegues out for lunch. Will they discuss business, or what their holiday plans are for next year?
    The ideas are endless.
    You made me think about the antagonist in my fantasy series. He was bullied, and now wants revenge. However, he is a man with great charisma. He almost persuades the protagonist to join him.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. People-watching is a great way to get material for writing, but it can backfire if you aren’t careful. A long time ago, a friend and I were having lunch at a restaurant in a fashionable new hotel. There was a party of women at a neighbouring table, mostly young but with at least one older lady, discussing plans for a wedding. I started listening in, and unfortunately couldn’t resist making some comments about what I was hearing to my friend, in a rather a cynical tone. Unfortunately for me, that older lady overheard me, and made a (justly) disapproving comment. Mortifying!
    On the plus side, I may just turn this into a story some day. And the lesson from this is to people-watch alone and circumspectly!

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