Sometimes a character will pop into my head just waiting to serve me. But I have to be honest. In reality, they have been stored in my mind, coming from an incident I may have seen while crossing a street, waiting in the supermarket line, or sitting in a restaurant. Speaking of restaurants, I remember years ago sitting in a large Chinese restaurant with my mother. As with most large, single rooms filled with people, the din was almost ear-splitting. But for one brief moment – you know how that goes – everyone stopped talking except for one lone couple. In the silence of that large room, we heard a woman’s voice ring out loud and clear. “It’s not the eggroll, Harry. It’s the past six years.” A titter ran through the room, then outright laughter. The hub-bub picked up again, but it was a moment I never forgot. The unexpected. The funny. The one or two words that spark an entire scenario.
That’s why it’s good to get out. You never know what you’ll see or hear. The out-of-the-blue inspiration for my imagination, the thing that gives me liftoff, could be anyone. It could be YOU. Never trust a writer.
As I writer, I tend to eavesdrop on life. I spy with my little eye. That sort of thing. But I don’t want any real details. I’m not a reporter. I am a fiction writer. I don’t want to know the couple I find so fascinating at the nearby table are not calling it quits after 15 years of marriage but are discussing a movie they saw. Or that the old duffer sitting at a table for one studying the menu again and again wasn’t thrown out of his house by his louse of a son but is merely waiting for someone, forgot to bring his reading glasses, and can’t see a word.
As I listen to them or see them oh, so briefly, I am creating a whole new world. I am adding to and subtracting from their traits, their virtues, their flaws. They have no idea they will be a major or minor part of my current story. Or my future story. They will become whoever and whatever I want them to be. It doesn’t matter who they really are, now they are mine. Bent to my will. I am their new creator. Oh, the power of it.
It’s good to be queen.
4 thoughts on “How Some Characters Come Alive by Heather Haven”
Yeah, but I really want to know about Harry, the eggroll and those six years.
And here’s another funny story about that ‘eggroll’ day. Several years later Woody Allen was on the Johnny Carson show and mentioned that exact incident. As the restaurant was in mid-town Manhattan, and you often spotted Woody Allen bombing around town, I could only surmise that he was eating in the Chinese restaurant on the same day. As a writer and humorist, it must have struck him the same way it struck me. I still laugh about it today..
Thank you, Susan. It was fun to write.
Love that “now they are mine.” Yes, a thousand times I have had the same feeling. Strangers give us themselves in such little bursts. Writers are so lucky to have an excuse to absorb the world around us. Wonderful post.
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