I spent the last week observing people. The tall, handsome man at the front desk. The efficient waiter at the restaurant. The casual diner at the cafe. The old woman walking her older dog. A family on vacation. A group of teens goofing off on the lawn. These observations serve as entertainment for my writer’s brain as well as material for characters that have yet to materialize. Sitting down and describing the color of their hair, the way they sat (or stood or walked) or anything that distinguishes them from any other person on the planet wasn’t as easy as writing this post. Characters are more than descriptions of what they look like, it is describing things that make them tick, who they are as people. But, how do you notice what makes them tick without invading their life and asking? You create a plausible backstory. One that builds the things that make them tick.
Sounds easy, right? Sure, until they do something that goes against their backstory and ruins everything. The old woman walking her even older dog should not have greeted another adult and left without the dog from the middle of the park. The back story of her buying the dog to fill the empty house was incorrect. It wasn’t her dog. These incorrect assumptions happen in real life… and sometimes, they happen in my writing life as well. How many times have I written a character and they do exactly opposite of what makes them tick? At first, I thought of myself as being a “bad writer” for not knowing my characters as fully as I should have known them before I started writing. This week of observation and backstory convinced me that maybe, just maybe the part of the character I have not counted upon is what makes the story richer with discovery. And, if they surprise me, they will surprise my readers as well as deepen the story.
I’m going to run with that for the time being. See where this path leads.