Shaping Characters

If you should spot me in a coffee shop staring at someone, please feel free to march up and tap me on the shoulder. It’s likely I’m stuck in a character reverie.

That happened to me recently when I was in Manhattan Beach, California, in a little café bakery. That is, I caught myself staring.

A woman walked in, a very pregnant woman wearing an ankle length sun dress, with a brown bob of a haircut, and a prominent, straight nose. As I continued to stare at her profile, I imagined that if she were to turn toward me, I’d discover that one eye was blue, and the other a silvery gray, due to blindness. I went on to imagine her as a highly proficient, in-demand assassin…on maternity leave. And so formed the character, in my head, of course. Now, what to do with her?

I shelf these characters in a file, in case I can use them in a story. It could take years to find them a home, but I’ve actually done just that with some of my imaginary peeps.

A man once walked into the legal non-profit where I work, an older man wearing older man clothes and sporting older man style, along with black space invader type shades that entirely blocked his eyes. He claimed he was a retired teacher with a workers’ compensation issue. But that’s not what he was to me.

I saw an older gent, in blacked-out shades who was a former DEA agent, forced into retirement by his failing vision, perpetually on the hunt for suspects. He still had what it takes, but one by one, his health and limbs were failing him. He needed a partner to take on what he could not.

This character found a home in a story. It took a few years, but he settled in quite nicely and found an able-bodied partner. And together, they made a solid team. More on that story to come.

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I’d love to know the rest of the story.