is a powerful device
speakers use to connect
with their audiences.
Characters break down
resistance and have the
ability to open hearts and minds. You
can deliver your message uniquely
when you present using a character,
because that character enables a speaker
to stand out, be different and provide a
So, what exactly is a character? One
definition classifies a character as a unique
or extraordinary individual, a person with
peculiar or notable traits. Another definition is an actor’s portrayal of someone.
At one time or another, you’ve said
to someone, “That so-and-so is a real
character.” And the other person knew
exactly what you meant. Characters get
your attention, don’t they?
Yep, it’s easy to recognize a character when you meet one. When
describing someone as a character,
there’s usually a certain fondness and
respect … maybe even a little bewilderment thrown in for good measure.
And maybe even a little envy?
So, what makes characters appealing?
The good ones are always unique.
They’re one of a kind. They can be goofballs or oddballs. In some ways, they’re
even misfits. Recall the many times
incredulous folks would ask Forrest
Gump bluntly, “Are you crazy or just
plain stupid?” Characters don’t let others’
judgments stop them from attempting
and accomplishing great things.
Pay attention to ideas that
sprout at unusual times.
When an outlandish idea popped into
my head about using a character to
illustrate the silent epidemic of brain
injury, I scoffed at the notion. My
daughter convinced me I should
explore this character idea.
Characters are leaders who do things
their own unique way. They’re sassy and
frequently say things that polite people
think … but would never say. That sense
of daring gives characters a genuineness
and authenticity most people admire.
The final thing to know about characters is that they break down barriers.
Great characters allow people to be real,
let down their guards and live life in the
moment. They bestow courage and give
audiences encouragement and permission
to be adventurous and try new things.
We, Lois and Steve, are a couple of
And, we’d like to give you a few ideas
about how you can be a character. It’s like
a box of chocolates: You just never know …
Is your original character an
extension of your authentic
Louis is classified as a persona, which
is defined as the voice or mask that an
author, speaker or performer puts on for
a particular purpose. Louis is an extension of my authentic self. The complexity
of Louis runs deeper than I consciously
understand at this time.
Louis is an original character, created for
a specific purpose—a one-time-only presentation at a brain-injury conference.
After that first performance, however,
Louis took on a life of his own and continued to charm his way into the speaker
world. He’s also wiggled into the hearts
of many audiences across the United
States and Canada.
How do you create an original
I’m not an authority on characterization;
however, my reflections about Louis’s
evolution may help you develop your
Be clear about what your char-
acter symbolizes, and relate
your character to your message.
My character’s disheveled and misplaced
look represents the shattered self-esteem
and loss of self that accompanies brain
injury. The ugly mask is a paradoxical
metaphor for people living with a brain
injury. They frequently hear, “You look
good,” but they feel ugly inside.
The transformation from Louis to Lois
symbolizes stripping away the negative
perceptions of living with a brain injury. It
illustrates that a person can let go of who
he or she was in order to discover a new
self. Removing the mask of limitation is a
call to action for survivors to take advantage of every resource available and ask
for the help they need to build a new life.