How do writers create their characters?
One day, while rushing around the supermarket, my attention was caught by a woman’s irate voice. Her anger was directed toward a small child in the shopping cart. As I watched, the woman took a swipe at the child—which I felt all the way down to my soul. How do you see this scenario? Do you want to give the assumed mother a piece of your mind? Grab the crying child and hug her? Call child protective services? I still see this picture clearly in my head.
Years ago, my husband was assigned to the US Embassy in London. I had a toothache in the same tooth that had been coddled along with fillings, root canals, and a crown. The Embassy has a list of doctors and dentists for ex-pats. I made my appointment and arrived at the dentist’s office. I pushed the button on the brass plate and a male voice buzzed me in and told me to have a seat in the waiting room. That room—the size of my walk-in closet—was lined with overstuffed, comfy couch and chairs. A few minutes later, a kindly, tall and slender man came to say he’d be with me soon. A one-man-band. A few minutes later, I sat in the dreaded chair. While this soft-spoken, courteous, gentle man poked and prodded and x-rayed, I sat fascinated by his eyebrows. Right out of a Dickens novel, his long-haired, wildly alive eyebrows performed a spell-binding dance. Have you ever been in a situation where you had to laugh so hard but couldn’t?
When feminism had entrenched itself into our society, I was camping in a National Park. After hiking all day, my friend and I stood in the long queue for the women’s showers. Maybe twenty-five women in front of us, while only about seven waited in the men’s line. Empowered women that we were, we strode over and joined the line for the men’s showers. The reaction of the men was varied. Some thought it was funny; some I think hoped they’d get a peek; a few behind us were angry that we were delaying their shower. But we hung in there. A little shook up when we got to the open urinals, but the men thankfully avoided them. And then it was my friend’s turn, and she walked away to a closed shower stall, leaving me alone in line until another shower became available. Through all the hoots and remarks, I held my head high as I walked to the next available shower. Have you ever pulled a stunt you wished you hadn’t? If you’re a man, would you be the smiling guy or the nasty one?
People wonder how authors conjure up memorable characters for their books. They are all around us!