Tuesday, July 14
Being in a different town is always fun for writers because there's new fodder for characters, settings, plots, and story lines. Son lives in a very diverse area, so there are so many different people to watch and wonder about.
For example, the Indian gentleman I see walking down the sidewalk every morning when I take Grandboy to preschool. It's hard to tell exactly how old he is but the man's beard is long and snowy white as is the hair that peeks out from under his turban. He wears baggy pants and a knee-length jacket with what we used to refer to as a Nehru collar. (Remember when those were a fashion statement back in the late sixties? Yeah, me too.) I have no idea where he is headed, but he walks with purpose, his spine straight and his focus right ahead of him. I compose a new story for him each morning--is he a widower? Or maybe walking to the grocery at the corner for something to tempt his wife, who is ill at home. Perhaps he was once a university professor and now, retired, he takes long walks each morning...
Or the young Hispanic woman who works in the kitchen at Grandboy's preschool. She greets me each day with a sunny smile and a warm hello. She ruffles Grandboy's hair with great affection, sharing the day's menu with him. But her eyes are sad and smudged underneath with purple shadows. I wonder if she is a single mother working hard to make ends meet in a very expensive area of the country. Does she come home to a small apartment, make yet another meal for her own little ones, and then begin the second half of her day's work doing laundry, cleaning, helping her kids with homework? Is she worn with worry about how she'd possibly afford new shoes when the light bill nearly doubled and her youngest needs dental work?
Or Son's neighbor--an elderly Chinese man who works in his yard every day, keeping it perfectly manicured. His roses are lovely and fragrant and he always has a smile for us when we come outside. Son says he's the eyes and ears of the neighborhood, but since he speaks very little English, it's often hard to understand him when he tells you about what he sees and hears all day. Interesting character, no?
Talk to me, writers--do you collect characteristics or even characters as you travel or go about your day? At the grocery store or the airport or at church or your day job? Does a little bit of people you know creep into your stories?