A writer’s eyes are everywhere, ever vigilant, watching, wondering, waiting for someone or something of interest that will spark a story idea. If you’re one of these inquisitive creatures, I’m sure you will agree that your major characters are usually based on people you know very well (carefully disguised, of course.) Maybe the kindly old lady who helps your heroine is really your aunt Sophie, and the hateful villain is that boss you just could not please no matter how hard you tried.
Your minor characters, though, those who appear briefly for a scene or two, are a different matter. For me, they spring from snippets of life; those unexpected glimpses of human nature that sometimes fall in my lap like gifts when I wasn’t even necessarily looking for them.
Take yesterday. I was sitting in the parking lot at the high school, waiting for my son, when a woman came barreling out of the primary school next door, dragging a small boy behind her. I watched as he struggled to keep up with her as she hurried toward her mini van. It was a beautiful, sunny day, but the storm clouds on that woman’s face nearly made me shiver.
“Come on,” she barked. “Will you hurry UP already?”
Halfway across the lot, the boy dropped his artwork. I saw the bright pink construction paper and the glittery hearts and ovals and knew it must be an Easter card. The woman snapped it up and shoved it beneath her arm.
“Come on, come on, will you come ON?”
Maybe the poor woman was just having a bad day. Maybe she normally has the patience of a saint. Any number of things could have happened that day to push her to the end of her rope. No matter. Somewhere, sometime, she is destined to appear in one of my stories as a monster mom.
Kind of makes you want to be careful, eh?
A writer’s eyes are everywhere. Watching. Wondering. Waiting…