I’m stuck. I’ve got a character in my book that I love, yet she seems two dimensional. I need more character traits and flaws for her. What am I going to do? My mind begins to wander, searching for something to add to my story. Develop the layers. Create a realistic character.
My mom calls. She tries the home line. I don’t answer – I’M WRITING. The answering machine kicks on. She doesn’t leave a message. Two seconds later my cell rings. (A brief aside – my family is known for their stalker-calling ways. If I don’t answer, they will KEEP trying).
I pick up my cell phone. My mother proceeds to tell me a story about a friend of hers that I have never met. And more than likely never will. She shouts most of the conversation into my ear. Her Southern accent ebbs and flows like the tide throughout the ten minute conversation. My mother was born and raised in the South, but moved to the North when I was four. It’s as if her accent is STILL trying to make up its mind where to call home.
I don’t mind the shouting. I shout too. Part of it is that we had a large family, and everyone wanted to make certain they were heard. Part of it is the idea that it is a cell phone. It is not connected by a landline. It makes its way through air and space and who knows what else. If we don’t shout, it might get lost somewhere. It’s not logical. It’s just a family thing.
And there it is.
All the inspiration, and then some. I never have to look very far. I don’t name names, and I don’t describe my relatives – or friends – right down to the nitty gritty details. I’d never hear the end of it if I did. However a few of the better quirks might just sneak into my story. Somehow.
Maybe my character is in a public place. Discussing her sex life. Sometimes with a Southern accent, sometimes without. There are children around. Maybe the mother of a small four year old child, who has an unfortunate tendency to repeat EVERYTHING, takes issue with my character. Maybe they get into a fight. A knock down, hair pulling fight. Maybe the police are called. They’re both arrested. Maybe while they’re sharing a cell, waiting for someone to bail them out they realize the ridiculousness of the entire situation. And they become best friends.
It’s fiction. It can happen.
Now, I not only have added some extra dimension to my character, I have created an entire scene that I can expand on. Sweet.
Yesterday, Liz blogged about finding inspiration at a baseball game. It’s all around us. Sometimes all it takes is a phone call.
What snippets of reality have you brought into your stories and your characters?