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Finding characters

Writer's don't have magical powers. Using skills we hone and sharpen we weave tales of enchantment that pull you onto the page and leave you spell bound, but we don't actually carry wands or sprinkle fairy dust. We are highly imaginative but we can't actually pull characters out of thin air.


So where do our characters come from? You'd be surprised.


Yes, I did say we can't pull them out of thin air but it sometimes does work that way. I'm not talking in circles.


None of us exist in a vacuum. It can be something as simple a laugh in the next aisle of a grocery store. You don't see the person but in your mind's eye, a character takes shape. They dress a little bohemian, maybe. They are vegan, rather, they want to be vegan but can't resist real cheese. They prefer cats over dogs because they relate to the cat's air of smug superiority. But cats don't like them. Their apartment manager doesn't allow dogs, even as a consolation prize, so they opt for a gerbil instead. A gerbil that hates them. It sits in the corner glaring at them through malevolent beady eyes.


You see what's happening here? You've never seen this person, but an entire world is building around that one sound you heard for less than five seconds. A simple laugh. But what kind of a laugh is it? Is person who is hated by a gerbil the kind of person to have a carefree laugh?


This is the life of a writer. We take elements of the world around us and build on it. Characters take shape out of it. The vapid hairdresser who can't remember any of her customer's names but can fix any hair problem known to man. Have I met her? Possibly. Maybe a tiny piece of her is buried somewhere deep in my psyche and is waiting to come out and meet the chatty barista- who just happens to be pursuing her law degree. Oh wait, that was a move, right? Or close to it.


A writer absorbs their surroundings like a sponge. The smells of an outdoor grill, the soft coos emitted by a happy baby, the riotous color of a farmer's market. Your character sitting in the depressing diner? Where did that come from? Remember that trip to Phoenix you took years ago and had to make that stop?


Every experience gets stamped in indelible ink on our memories. It's then filed by an chaotically organized brain that stands ready to pull them out at the slightest whiff. 


Nothing is wasted. The six senses are always reporting, the brain always recording. Life is always happening.


This is where our characters come from. 






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