Story Characters and People Watching
The Stuff of Story Characters
People are the stuff of story characters. I pride myself on my story characters, many of which have a Dickensish quality. Most of my characters—and likely most of his—are composites of a variety of people observed over the years. Being a people-watcher is essential to good fiction writing, or so it seems to me.
The following character descriptions are portrayals of real people with only slight exaggerations here and there. The names have been changed to protect…me! Truth be told, there are a lot of fascinating people in the town in which I live, and people intrigue me. I should add, my purpose is not to disparage, but to see people through the eyes of Dickens, if you will. They are all wonderful people in their own way—well, for the most part—and uniquely interesting.
Mike the Mouth
Tall with long spidery legs, Mike lopes into the crowded room loudly barking, “This is what you need to know about this place.” Heads turn to see who he is talking to—apparently himself, but possibly everyone in the room. I watch as he paces about explaining to no one in particular how an establishment should be run, and bragging on his superior abilities and someone else’s less than mediocre abilities. His eyes sparkle and his long hawk-billed nose is held high. His smile shines. Then he focuses in on the person nearest to where he finally chooses a chair. They are engaged in conversation whether they want to be or not, and will eventually leave either maddened or amused.
She trundles from her table to the coffee pot one hip battling with the other while leaning forward in near stumble mode. I cringe. When she turns, her eyes are dull, rather sad-looking. Her blouse and skirt are a little big and appear to have been handed down from some far distant relative, like from the 1800s. Hair sticks out every which way from beneath her puffy bonnet. I smile. Nothing matches, and yet somehow it looks right for her. As she wobbles back to her seat she mutters a response to someone else’s conversation, while appearing to wince in pain with each step. To my relief she got to her table without falling, but she did rather falter as she worked her hips onto her chair, where she sat and nattered at her coffee cup.
Gabby Gold Digger
Gabby limps grim-faced into the room leaning on his cane, not entirely comfortable walking with his prosthetic leg. He finds a seat and looks about out the corner of his eye to see who might be interested in a story. Nobody looks his way, so he strokes his bushy beard and starts telling his story to the person nearest at hand. “That gold nugget was twenty-four pounds!” he blurts out. “Found it up Hollow Creek Wash.” The other person glances his direction and his stringy eyebrows flutter and he slams his hand palm down on the table and shouts, “Twenty-four pounds! Did you hear me? Twenty-four pounds!” I did not hear the exact reason he was unable to carry it out. But he laughs, shakes his head, and says, “You know, I went back and looked for that nugget and never could find it again. But it’s out there.” I smile and go back to my work.
A Little Soused
He walked into the restaurant while I was working on this piece, and he was more than a little soused. He tried to sit in a chair at a table across from me and, face puckered so that his little lip beard stuck out over his chin, he seemed to be having trouble getting the chair situated. He turned and looked at me, left the chair and shuffled over to where I sat working at my computer. He leaned in toward me, his eyes dull and staring. His lips moved and a little spittle came out, but no words. After my non-response he returned to play musical chairs at the other table before once again blankly looking over his shoulder toward my table. Again, leaning a bit at the waist he trundled over and tipped his face so close to mine that the smell of drink caused me to pull away in spite of myself. He stood there and just stared at me for some time and then picked up my hat from the chair across from me, set it on my computer bag and sat down. All attempts at conversation were met with silence and dumb stares. After a bit I packed up and left. Poor guy!
Skinny as a broomstick, she enters the room, her head tilted slightly to the side. She gives the place a sidelong look, her features sour. Her eyes appear to shout, “Don’t cross me.” Her husband, back bent in humble submission, shuffles along behind her. “Is this place open?” She addresses me from a distance. I smile and nod. “Why isn’t the TV on?” Her tone is acidic. “I don’t know, but I like it that way,” I respond in counter tone. “Well I don’t like it that way!” She turns in search of a waitress. Soon the TV is blaring, and she in turn pays it little attention. All I can do is shake my head.
Perhaps, Just Perhaps
Yep, these characters are indeed the stuff of story, and perhaps, just perhaps, sometime in the future they will meld into story characters in one of my stories. For now they are fruit on my characters tree, tasty items waiting to be picked and presented for readers to partake of with eye and mind and to enjoy.