Lists feature heavily in The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon. Written around AD 995, they are a collection of her writings about life in the Imperial Court of the Heian Dynasty Japan. Here are some of her lists:
A man whom one loves gets drunk and keeps repeating himself.
To have spoken about someone not knowing that he could overhear.
Parents, convinced that their ugly child is adorable, pet him and repeat the things he has said, imitating his voice.
A man recites his own poems (not especially good ones) and tells one about the praise they have received - most embarrassing.
Lying awake at night, one says something to one's companion, who simply goes on sleeping.
In the presence of a skilled musician, someone plays a zither just for his own pleasure and without tuning it.
The back of a piece of embroidery.
The inside of a cat's ear.
A swarm of mice, who still have no fur, when they come wriggling out of their nest.
The seams of a fur robe that has not yet been lined.
Things that make one's heart beat faster:
Sparrows feeding their young.
To pass a place where babies are playing.
To see a gentleman stop his carriage before one's gate and instruct his attendants to announce his arrival.
It is night and one is expecting a visitor. Suddenly one is startled by the sound of rain-drops, which the wind blows against the shutters.
Another list maker was Mary MacLane of Butte, Montana at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries. On March 8th, 1901, she wrote a list of
the kind of people who call a woman's figure her "shape"
hips that wobble as one walks
persons with fishy eyes
insipid sweet wine
men who wear moustaches
wax flowers off a wedding cake
fools who tell me what I "want" to do
some paintings of the old masters which I am unable to appreciate
people who don't wash their hair often enough
a bed that sinks in the middle
These lists reveal characters vivid enough to reach out across hundreds and thousands of years. Characters with opinions and likes and dislikes. Characters we want to read about because no one wants to read about wishy washy people without anything to say for themselves. Try making some lists for some of your characters, and see how strong their opinions are.
NEW!!! I've finally got round to organising some course dates....
How to WRITE a Novel: London 3rd May/Birmingham 7th May/
Oxford 8th May/Exeter 21st May/Bath 12th June
How to SELL a Novel: London 24th May/Exeter 4th June/
Bath 3rd July Details are on my website