Forming characters! Whose? Our own or others? Both. And in that momentous fact lies the peril and responsibility of our existence. ~Elihu Burritt
People fascinate me. Even as I sit by myself, I am surrounded by characters who have captured my intrigue. There’s the wee, old gentleman sitting with his wee wife having a cup of coffee. He’s nibbling on a muffin in their silence. I have not seen them speak once, which is a dead give away that they are married. If they were merely lovers, they’d yammer away at each other with endless stories of sharing. But these two sit in silence, nibbling and sipping. They make me smile.
At the counter stands a woman with a gem encrusted ass. Her jacket is reminiscent of Sgt. Peppers in blue jean. She’s asking a lot of questions about coffee and shaking her bleached hair that hangs ratty around her shoulders. The roots are dark. Whether she’s lazy or attempting to pull off the rocker look, I’m not really sure, thought I lean toward rocker considering the thick blush and thick black eyeliner. Her fake tan accentuates the wrinkles on her face.
Across the room is a heavy-set man, kind of cute in his own right. His hair, too, is bleached and styled into spikes. Think of a nice, stiff meringue. He keeps looking at me and smiling. Then he turns his head to re-engage in conversation. The sunlight through the windows bounces off his shiny bald spot.
Characters exist every where! Did I mention the big guy sitting in front of me beside his Harley leather cloaked buddy? The big guy, he’s the one who fascinates me. Normal from shoulder to toe, but I’m curious about the purple and pink peace sign stocking cap with a pom-pom.
Characters have been on my mind because there are so many aspects to a person that create who they are in that one moment that you know them.
I say one moment because people are not stagnant. They change and grow as their experiences broaden. Whether they change for the better or worse, well, that’s up to them. Fortunately, we have a say in the final outcome.
You know someone. Their passions, interests, experiences, heartaches, dreams, and everything else, create that person in that single moment in time. That person will be different, if they are lucky, in five years after life changes the web of who they are. I’m nowhere near the person I was five years ago. I’m not even the person I was a year ago. I’ve changed, grown, and evolved.
Important lesson in life #1: Don’t become attached to who you are. You will change.
Important lesson in writing #1: Don’t become attached to you characters. They will change.
Cry, whine, piss, moan all you want. It won’t do any good and you can’t stop it. Life is change. No one lives in a bubble.
Unless you’re reading bad writing.
The ultimate cause of change, both in people and characters written on a page? Sometimes it’s the weather or climate. Sometimes due to an inanimate object? Sure! I suppose a car accident with a tree could constitute change. In the end, it’s other people who drive the biggest bulldozers of change. Think back…every major even of change in your life? Due to another person. An old lover, your parents, a best friend who betrayed you.
We, as humans, are the ultimate elements of change. We do not live in bubbles.
Unless you’re reading bad fiction.
The point to this post? The rules of fiction generally tell us that we need to choose a main character. Check. Main character fleshed out. Now, it’s the other characters that make the story. No two characters should meet without having a lasting influence of change on each other.
Story is a reflection of life. To truly reflect that, we need to illustrate the change we inflict, on each other and the world we live in. Or worlds, if you’re writing fantasy or science fiction.
And…the meringue-haired, balding man is creeping closer, chair by chair.
I feel a story coming on.