Birth Order Part 2, or Why Your Characters Behave the Way They Do

Birth Order Part 2

Last week, we looked at the peculiarities of the first born and middle child. In Birth Order Part 2, we’ll examine the last born, only child and twins. The way they behave can help you in crafting your story’s characters.

Last Born Children

Birth order part 2. The last born child.

Bess-Hamiti / Pixabay

Last born children fight hard to get noticed. They are often the class clown, the maverick, the life of the party. Their older siblings consider them spoiled.

Characteristics of the youngest include:

Manipulative Charming Show off People person Casts blame on others
Engaging Good salesperson Precocious Risk taker Outgoing


Careers include “On stage” professions – TV announcers and anchor people, salespeople (because of their ability to manipulate people). They like jobs where they can work alone and do things at their own pace.

Strengths Weaknesses
Outgoing, affectionate, creative, confident, uncomplicated, Spoiled, manipulative, immature, self-centered, impetuous, feel they live in the shadow, rebellious, absentminded


Why? “Taught out” parents let the kid fend for himself.

They are suckers for praise and encouragement. Their attention-seeking antics can be turned around with a “I’ll show them” attitude.

Famous last born children include Howard Stern, Jay Leno, Danny DeVito, Steve Martin.



Only Children

Birth order part 2. The only child.

isakarakus / Pixabay

If parents pressure the first born child to succeed, they pressure only child as much, squared. They are super perfectionists, super reliable, super scholarly and any of the other super*latives generally applied to the first born.

Depending on why he’s an only helps mold his personality. If his parents tried to have other children but could only have one, they heap all their energy and attention on him. He can become very pampered and spoiled and may have problems in later life with self-centeredness.

If he is an only child because of his parents’ conscious decision, he may have grown up with a very structured, disciplined expectation of being the “little adult.” Resentment at being deprived of his childhood might cause problems.

An only child’s personality can swing from responsible, upstanding citizen to scared and rebellious because they’re not in as much control as they look.

Strengths Weaknesses
Matures faster, gets along better with older or younger people, responsible, ambitious, perfectionists, conscientious, loves facts and details Self-centered, have difficulty sharing, attention seeking, fear of trying new things, worry too much, inflexible


Onlies tend to be critical, often lonely, and have difficulty relating to peers.

Careers include those similar to the first born child: law, medicine, architecture.

Famous only children are Robin Williams, Tiger Woods, Brooke Shields, Carol Burnett.



Birth order part 2. Twins.

zinavasini / Pixabay

Twins can take on any of the other birth order’s characteristic, so it is hard to describe them, but there is a distinction on which of the two is the leader.

The leader’s traits:

Most resemble first borns Aggressive Loud
Outspoken Opinionated Intolerant


The follower’s traits:

Most resembles shy middle child Shy Loner
Quiet Wallflower Undefiant


Twins may have identity issues, not feel unique, hide behind their twin’s shadow or feel overshadowed. On the plus side, they have a constant companion, someone who understands them. They are confident, multi-taskers and want to stand out from their peers.

Famous twins include Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren, The Olsen Twins, Fred and George Weasley.



Of course, not every first born is a perfectionist, and not every middle child is a peacekeeper. You can use these variables to think outside the box when it comes to adding depth to your characters.


The marital status of the parents is important. Your character’s parents’ marriage, separation, divorce, or remarriage has an effect on him.

Parenting style is also critical. A strict parent has different expectations than a more liberal one, regardless of birth order.

Parent birth order can influence a child. A first born parent will be more critical of their first born child.  A middle born parent will be less confrontational.


A gap of more than five years between siblings often creates a “second family” with the new child taking on the characteristics of a first born.

Adoption of a new child rearranges the dynamics of the existing child(ren) as does the blending of two families through remarriage.  Bumped up or down in order, resentment at being replaced as the oldest/youngest can cause friction.

A sibling with a physical or mental handicap causes the other children in the family to mature quicker, whether they are older or younger.

The death of a sibling bumps a child up or down. Children usually take the role of the sibling to keep the deceased child a part of their life. “Ghost” children occur when a child dies and another is born shortly afterward.



The Birth Order Book, Why You Are The Way You are by Dr. Kevin Leman, the importance of birth order

The Ultimate Personality Guide by Jennifer Freed and Debra Birnbaum


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Birth order, part 1, or why your characters behave the way they do

Birth Order


Why Your Characters Behave The Way They Do

Does your hero run a large corporation?  Is he a mover and shaker in the business world?  Or is he in a creative field such as advertising or entertainment?  Does he negotiate well?  Speak first and regret it afterward?  Maybe he’s the life of every party. Whatever his occupation, you can bet his birth order had an effect on his personality and career choice.  First born children generally share characteristics, as do last borns and middle borns. Not all attributes apply to each birth order, but on average studies have shown them to be more true than not.

Today, we’ll discuss the peculiarities of the first born and the middle child.  Next week, we’ll look at the youngest, only child and twins as well as the variables that can affect their behavior.

Whatever your character's occupation, you can bet his birth order had an effect on his personality and career choice.


First Born Children

First Born children usually have the most attention directed at him/her, even before birth, because the pregnancy was a BIG DEAL.  More likely than not, multiple generations pin hopes and dreams on them and pressure them to perform from day one.

They are their parents’ “guinea pig”, and their parents often overdo and overprotect their first born child.  The first born child grows up faster. Parents hand them responsibility early.

Some common characteristics:

Perfectionist Reliable List maker Organized Critical
Goal oriented Prompt Scholarly In control Well groomed
Motivated to achieve success Believes in law and order No gray areas Likes structure Logical
Critical Energetic Ambitious Enterprising Serious


Professions – A higher percentage of first borns are in science, medicine, law, accounting, architecture, engineers, computers, and reporters (except on air.)

He gets things done and has confidence in being taken seriously by others.

21 of the first 23 astronauts were first born children.

2/3 of entrepreneurs are first born children.

Strengths Weaknesses
High confidence level, taken seriously, strong concentration, confident, feels supported and that they will be respected for what they do A fear of being dethroned, overachiever, strong-willed, feel as though they’re never good enough, selfish, critical


Two typical types

First born children come in two typical types – compliant/willing to please and assertive/strong willed.

The compliant first born grows up as a pleaser of others.  Since childhood, he was the one responsible to get things done.  His parents depended on him, and it was his solemn duty to not let them down.

Common characteristics of the compliant first born:

Reliable Good student Pleaser Nurturer Strong need for approval
Won’t complain Team player Conscientious Cooperative “Grin & bear it” mentality


The second type is the assertive, strong willed type.  They are the pace-setters and trend-setters.  They have high expectations, not only of themselves, but everyone else.

Common characteristics of the assertive first born:

Assertive Strong-willed Precise Insistent High achiever
Driven Perfectionist In control Want things their way Conventional


Famous first borns:

Oprah, Charlton Heston, Rush Limbaugh



Middle Children

Middle childrens’ attitude and lifestyle plays off that of the firstborn child.  Generally, their personalities are the opposite of their older sibling.  If he senses he can compete, he will.  If the older child is stronger or smarter, the second may go off in another direction.

Middle borns may feel like a fifth wheel.  They go outside of their family to create a “family” with friends. Middles are the most secretive of all birth orders, because they feel the world isn’t paying attention and chose not to confide their plans.

They are the last to seek professional help because they consider themselves mentally tough and independent.

Others consider them the most monogamous, and they have a strong commitment to make the marriage work.

Professions include sales, art, advertising, a career that involves negotiating or being level headed and unbiased.

They are tenacious because they’re used to life being unfair.

Middle children characteristics include:

Strengths Weaknesses
Peacemakers, unspoiled, realistic, imaginative, loyal, mediator, independent, flexible, diplomatic Hates confrontation, stubborn, suspicious, rebellious, “family” is friends, difficulty setting boundaries


Like first borns, they come in two types.

Type 1:

Loner Quiet, shy Impatient Uptight Fights for respect


Type 2:

Outgoing Friendly Loud Laid back Patient


Famous middle children are Donald Trump, Tim Allen, Julia Roberts, Richard Nixon, David Letterman

Birth Order: Resources

The Birth Order Book, Why You Are The Way You are by Dr. Kevin Leman, the importance of birth order

The Ultimate Personality Guide by Jennifer Freed and Debra Birnbaum


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National Novel Writing Month, revised

How to write a book in a month

How to write a book in a month, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month, affectionately called NaNo, is traditionally held in the month of November.  (go to My writing group unanimously agrees that November is the second suckiest month to write a book (superseded only by December).

Traditionally, we pick the dullest, dreariest part of the year to host our own writing challenge, Winter NaNo.  This month, from the February meeting (2-11) until the March meeting (3-10), participants challenge each other to write 32K words.  No editing, no revising, nothing but pure stream of consciousness writing.  The internal editor is locked in a dark closet, and we all have each other’s keys.  We’re so serious about this, we’re bringing our laptops to the February meeting to kick off the event and will spend a dedicated amount of time writing on our projects.

A minimal donation is made, with the pot split between the organization and one lucky winner.  Writers who can’t make the goal pay a small penalty.

Sharing a goal like this is invigorating.  You know everyone’s in the same boat, so there’s no excuse not to write.  The competition is fierce, especially to be the first to claim “I made it.”

Several NaNo projects written by my fellow authors have been sold and published.  More motivation.

What are you hoping to write this month?  What is your motivation?

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