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Hello SE friends,

Recently I read a book that involved the troubled relationship between the oldest daughter in the family and the youngest. It was fascinating and got me wondering about the role of birth order in our characters. I did some research and discovered there are volumes on the topic and plenty of anecdotal materials. So, over the next few posts, I will share some of that information with you.

When we craft our characters, many of us include comments about their placement in the family. We attach traits we’ve experienced with siblings or others close to us. I will explore some of those traits in my posts over the next several months.

Full disclosure, birth order theory is somewhat controversial because, in and of itself, it is not a determinant of someone’s personality. Many other factors include genetics, physical environment, gender, culture, family trauma, and much more. Still, birth order offers writers a tool for developing their characters. For that reason, in the next posts, I will focus on the traits of the (1) first-born, (2) the middle-born, (3) the last-born, and (4) the only child.

I leave you with a curious detail. Per the research, if there’s an age difference of three or more years between siblings, the birth order restarts. Given this tidbit, each of my four children is an “only” child. Between my eldest and my next child, there are seven years. Then there are five years between the next, and three and a half years between the final two. No wonder I had my hands full, right?

Just for fun, consider these three sets of accomplished men and women:

  • Ernest Hemmingway and Princess Diana
  • Ellen DeGeneres and Eddie Murphy
  • Elon Musk and Eleanor Roosevelt

Which set do you imagine is first-born, middle-born, or last-born? I suspect you got them right. The answers are as follows: the two first-borns are Elon Musk and Eleanor Roosevelt. It’s a worthy exercise to think about why you chose them. The middle-borns are Ellen DeGeneres and Eddie Murphy. Did you guess them correctly? And of course, the last-borns are Ernest Hemmingway and Princess Diana.

If you are like me, you might be thinking about one or more of your characters. Where might he or she fit in birth order? And, why? We’ll discuss this and more over the next months. Till then, stay warm and have a wonderful day.

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