We're all surrounded by characters every day. People who inspire bits of dialogue or parts of characters or story plots. A hazard of being friends with a writer is that something about you might end up in one of their books. We're people watchers. We observe the things other people try to ignore. We're little amateur psychologists, studying human behavior like we intend to start handing out meds.
Some people you meet just scream "character" when you see them. My friend Lisa is one of these people.
Lisa is one of the most colorful people I know. She was raised by a couple of hippies and for the first 8 years of her life she lived out of an RV running around topless. Her mom and dad used to grow marijuana on the kitchen table. This explains a lot about my friend. There are times when talking to her is about like carrying on a conversation with a baked potato, but you have to love her. It's really hard not to.
Right now she works in an area that can only be described as "Better Hoods and Ghettos." She works at a gas station and people call her "Bubbles." But don't let that fool you. She has a baseball bat and a Tazer and she's not afraid to use either of them. She's had to use them a few times on a couple of crack addicts, as well as the crossdresser who wants to be called 'Jasmine' when he's wearing his glittery dresses instead of his normal blue jeans and a cowboy hat.
Some pimp tried to recruit her and give her a ride but she threatened him with her tazer. I have no idea how this woman has the nerve to do half the things she does, but she just takes it all in stride and scary people stay away from her. Because, as it turns out, my friend is one of the scary people. Or at the very least, she's someone who makes scary people a bit wary.
She's got a California King snake named Phil Collins and a 'slutty cat' she named Barbara Walters (despite the fact that Barbara Walters is not in fact slutty at all.)
She has a boyfriend who wants to get a Prince Albert. Unlike a lot of women, she is unamenable to this plan. She claims it could be a choking hazard. She says all this to me with a completely straight face.
None of these exact scenarios have shown up in any of my characters or stories, and yet there is probably a piece of Lisa in some of my characters. I believe that everybody is a character if you dig deeply enough. Lisa's quirkiness is just all out there on the surface. But all people are funny, and have their weird little idiosyncracies. When we take the time to notice them, we see how rich, and multi-layered people are and it can only enhance the reality of the characters we create on the page.
Who are the characters in your life?