Monthly Archives: May 2019

Infusing Personality Into Your Characters

By Terry C. Misfeldt

Your characters should be described with more personality than what clothes they wear or what they look like. Infusing personality into your characters requires an understanding of the four basic types of people.

For this we’ll share a marketing-oriented version of the four personalities that we’ve found makes it easy to understand people quickly. It facilitates communication without having to change who you are, so it’s a natural method for describing your characters.

The four types are Control (some people refer to them as Type A), Perfect, Fun, and Peace.

Allow a brief interpretation of each, starting with Control. Most business owners (lumping here) are Control freaks (using the term loosely) because their mantra is “Get it Done!” A few of the traits that describe them and which can be used to infuse personality into your characters: Bold, self-sufficient, independent, and strong-willed.

Switching to Perfect people brings accountants to mind; people who are detail oriented and precise. These are characters who are thoughtful, sensitive, and idealistic, such as creative people with musical or artistic talent. They have to get things right.

Control and Perfect people are more task-oriented than people-oriented.

The more people-oriented personalities are the Fun and Peace types. Fun people–like the song lyrics–just want to have fun. You can tell they’re smiling when you talk to them on the phone. They’re generally the life of the party, enthusiastic, cheerful, and good on stage. They’ll have no qualms about singing at a karaoke bar. They’re warm and thrive on encouragement.

Peace people just want to get along, do their work, go home and be left alone because they like the easy way of doing things. They’re calm, patient, consistent and extremely competent. You could set your clock on their routine, especially if their second nature is Perfect.

Sound like any of your characters?

If You Had 168 Football Fields

By Dorothy Seehausen

After a long, snowy Wisconsin winter, it was time to take up my daughter’s invitation to visit my granddaughter, the anthropology major, at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It was her 20th birthday and they promised me an hour on my own to do research. Her dorm is within walking distance of the Krause Research Library at the Center for Western Studies (CWS), so while they took a stroll around the campus enjoying the warmish spring-like weather I headed over to the CWS for a frolic of my own – piecing together the awesome story of our pioneer ancestors.

Located at 2001 S. Summit Avenue in Sioux Falls, the CWS houses a welcome center, gift shop, museum, and library. Most of its many offerings are free, and include the new permanent museum exhibits Voices of the Northern Plains, as well as the Krause Research Library which houses 40,000 volumes on the Great Plains/American West. Partnerships with the South Dakota State Historical Society, the South Dakota Archaeological Society and the University of Nebraska’s Center for Great Plains Studies aid the CWS in their goal to stimulate interest in the heritage of South Dakota. There is also online access to thousands of photos and documents in the library’s database Northern Plains Peoples & Places.

The Krause Research Library is upstairs, its walls appropriately decorated with long rows of books I wished I had time to get lost in. Off to the left at the top of the stairs an ample staff room awaits with staff to assist the researcher’s every whim. Open to the public, family historians either can browse the shelves themselves or hire a researcher to work with. Since my time and funds were limited, I decided to sit at the computer looking for books, articles, magazines – anything that contained the history of homesteading in South Dakota, my latest family history project.

My interest in South Dakota started when I married in 1961. My husband’s grandparents (my granddaughter’s great-greats), Thomas and Ida Mae Shanahan purchased 160 acres of homestead land for a filing fee of $18 in Lyman County, South Dakota in 1908. Their story is a microcosm of the lives of thousands of homesteaders who poured into Dakota Territory from 1860 to 1920, thanks to the homestead act of 1862.

Using “homesteading” and “South Dakota” as my search terms, a few minutes later I discovered “Drawn to the Land: Homesteading Dakota.” This guide is a 20-page booklet, digitized and available online, describing the South Dakota State Historical Society’s traveling exhibit to celebrate the state’s 125th anniversary. It includes an overview of the homesteading experience from the first purchase of 160 acres of land to proving it up and all the hardships, pitfalls and successes in between, including pictures of the one room sod huts many families had to live in.

I downloaded the guide on my flash drive, happy as great-great grandpa Shanahan must have been as he stood on his land for the first time, a land patent in his pocket and a dream in his heart.

So how big actually is 160 acres? The Mall of America is about 96 acres; Vatican City is about 110; Ellis Island is 27.40 acres; Buckingham Palace itself has 19 acres of floor space. Fort Knox is 109,054 acres.  And if you had 168 football fields? They would fit on your 160 acres of land.

Life in Wisconsin

Having lived in the Badger state most of my life, I have come to love Wisconsin. Life in Wisconsin can be harsh when inches, or feet, of snow fall and remain on the ground for months…or when wind chill factors drop into the 25 below category or colder. Life in Wisconsin can also be beautiful when spring blossoms and trillium spout up in the forests or in the fall when leaves turn gorgeous in colors of orange, red, and yellow.

Sure, Wisconsin has its tourist destinations such as Door County, Wisconsin Dells, and other attractions but it is her small farming communities, thousands of acres of forests, and clean running water which are most enticing. When I have the luxury of spending time in the woods or by a lake and marvel at the beauty of nature, I think this is what more people need to experience. Maybe our state should advertise these simple pleasures more.

It is then I realize the serenity, peace and quiet I am able to experience could be ruined, disturbed, and less enjoyable if it were inundated by hordes of visitors. Being selfish, I’d rather keep them to myself, family, and close friends.

If, however, we do encounter visitors from another planet, we must do our best to educate them about taking care of what they are able to enjoy. That means leaving wherever you are looking better and cleaner than you found it. Respect the rules and obey the laws. Treat the people who own the property–even if it’s the state or federal government–with respect. Ask permission before stepping onto what might be private property. Be courteous and you will be treated the same.

A good rule of thumb is to ask first. If you’re getting together for a picnic, ask the host what you can bring. And ask if you can bring someone else along instead of showing up with 10 other people and then wonder why there’s not enough food.

Keeping a Family History Journal

By Dorothy Seehausen

I believe if any of us Family Historians think back far enough we can remember the first time the genealogy bug took hold. It’s one of those unforgettable firsts, like your first kiss, or first car. For me, it was the day my mother invited me to tramp around City Cemetery in Farmer City Illinois taking rubbings of the Meliza family tombstones. I had a No. #2 pencil and a spiral notebook for writing names, dates and other pertinent information as my mother called them out to me. I was about 16, the age when kids begin to see their parents as the grown-ups they really are, when our toys and crayons and coloring books end up in a shoebox on the closet shelf, replaced by the trappings of pop culture and shopping trips to the mall. It was the thrill of the hunt, and the excitement of unraveling the mysteries of my family as these new adult curiosities began to take hold.

I felt rather like Dorothy pulling back the curtain on the Wizard of Oz. I was finally old enough to know the family secrets. Little did I know there would be so many. And how cleverly they would be hiding!

I look back fondly on the beginnings of my family history journey, not realizing at the time my mother was passing down the gift of her own curiosity and love of our family. She was what I would describe as an unassuming person, her vocation as a librarian very much personified in her simple manners and gentle way of approaching life.

Early beginnings are a great way to start a family history journal.