–Are There Some in Your Everyday World?



a-frame1It’s no secret I love to write and teach. So, I’m often asked from where I get ideas for names, plots, and characters.


As for names, I’ve been known to go shopping for ideas in cemeteries!


Plots generally hit me while I’m walking or driving.


Characters, well, that’s probably the most fun.


My characters are NEVER based on anyone in particular.


Instead, I observe people, then pull together a character based on the stance, demeanor, profile, hobbies, quirkiness, speech, and lifestyle preferences of several different people.


Sometimes I’m influenced by peoples’ choices of where/how to live (Alaska, southern Florida, islands, mountains, city, dessert) and where/what they call home (mansion, boat, A-frame, apartment).


I’ve been a people-watcher for years, traveled in more than a dozen countries, lived in seven states, and worked (or consulted) in a variety of settings: newsrooms, university classrooms, electric power plants, drum storage yards, company offices, advisory boardrooms.


With that kind of diverse exposure, one tends to meet a lot of unique people along the way. There’s:


  • The distant relative on my husband’s side who wins just enough in the lottery each time he plays that he never has reason to get serious about a steady paycheck.


  • The hoarder near where I grew up. She filled her house and two mobile homes with so much stuff, she had to sleep upright in a chair. There was no space to recline.


  • The country boy pick-up truck drivers who store EVERYTHING on their dashboards.


  • The acquaintance who seems to live on Red Bull and cigarettes. Does he ever eat?


  • The friend in D.C. whose organized (and labeled) cupboards, closets, and pantry shelves suggest a labelmaker must have been held captive there for several weeks.


  • The wife of a former editor (a stay-at-home mom) who confessed to owning 420 pairs of shoes.


  • An interview subject in Lancaster. He would steal things, then return them just to get the glory and credit of finding them. Until he was caught and jailed, that is.


  • My former co-worker Bill back in Ohio who should have been listed in the dictionary under the word “schmoozer.” He donned suits every day, but wore large silver and turquoise belt buckles, watches, and rings, the latter on three out of four fingers on each hand.


  • Also about Bill: ask him how he’s doing and his instant answer was always a smile, and, “Oh my, if I was doing any better I wouldn’t know how to handle it,” or “I’m peachy and I’m the luckiest guy I know.”


  • The gal who wears beige every day. Everywhere.


  • Joe’s aunt who took up Tae Kwan Do in her 60s.


  • A former co-worker who won $6 million in the lottery and purchased only a new pick-up truck.


Other times, I’m intrigued by a picture. For instance, the photo of this girl looking at books on a shelf stopped me in Version 2my tracks. Where is she? What is she doing? Is she looking at a book or looking through the shelf? Notice the light coming from behind the shelving unit…what does she see back there? Is she spying on someone? The writer’s task now is to assign her character traits. What fun it is!


I’d love to hear about an intriguing person you’ve met along the way. What quirky or unique trait made him or her stay in your memory?

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