Collecting Characters

July 14, 2010 at 6:07 am (Character, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )


Thanks everyone for your comments and warm welcome back.  I’m still slightly jet-lagged, back at work full-time, have in-house guests and a number of other things going on at the moment so am having a wonderful time trying to settle back into a rhythm. No writing happening at the moment but I know now for sure that I’m going to be rewriting my WIP in first person. Ever since I made that decision I’ve had ideas and pieces of narration flowing through my head continuously so I know I’m on the right track.

This post I want to talk a bit about my trip but not about all the amazing things I saw. I want to talk about the characters I collected.

I am a people watcher. I can’t help it. And when I see a person my first thought is usually about what sort of character could they be. From there my head then adds details and backstories and extra physical features and the final character ends up nothing like the person that was the catalyst for their creation which is probably just as well as they are based on a five minute impression of someone I’ve probably never spoken to.

So which characters did I collect?

The Bore. This is the guy who sits behind you in the bus and tells the same boring story four times throughout the day. Everytime someone new comes along, out comes the story. And it was a boring story to begin with. This is the guy whose girlfriend starts talking over because he is that boring. Yet he insists on getting to the end of his story even if nobody is listening. Plus, he doesn’t vary the story or expand it with the retelling. It is told the same way every time with the same words and in the same monotone drone.

The Tourist.  There are people who tour and then there are tourists. The tourist is the one who actually believes that speaking louder will help people understand the words they are saying. The tourist is the one who criticises the hotel staff for not speaking English (in a non-English speaking country). The one who pokes the breakfast rolls and grimaces at the idea of eating food that they are unfamiliar with. Instead of responding with wonder and the strange and unusual, the tourist either photographs it or turns their nose up at it.

The Impatient Man. This one is the guy who does everything short of running you over to get ahead of you in a cue. Then he proceeds to try to work his way around you, gently shoving you and your belongings to the side. When that doesn’t work he starts calling out to the person at the head of the cue trying to get himself a reason to walk around you. Then, if someone else dares to push in anywhere in the line, this is the man that goes off at them and berates them. Signature of the impatient man is the rumpled, grey suit. It is always grey for some reason.

The Dreamer. This one I saw several of, mostly in London. They wander around in the parks staring at the grass or the trees and they seem to tilt in the direction the wind is blowing. These people are in serious danger of getting run over by bike riders or even running squirrels because they are not at all focused on what is happening around them. They frequently have paper backs stuffed into their back pockets.

I collected many others but what is important is that being around new people in new situations got me looking closer at the people around me. I am always watching people but this trip really helped me to focus on some of the smaller details.

One thing that amazed me was when I was in line to go to the Eiffel Tower there were a group of soldiers, with very large guns, walking around underneath and generally keeping an eye on things. That kind of freaked me out because seeing a soldier in uniform is kind of something for ANZAC day only and seeing someone with a gun that big in public is fairly uncommon in Australia. It was interesting watching how some of the other visitors responded. Some tried to photograph them and were rebuked. Others utterly ignored them, treated them as if they were part of the scenery. Others snuck covert glances at them while others stared openly. It was just interesting seeing the array of reactions.

Well, I probably won’t get to post again until the weekend but I am wishing everyone a very good week. In the meantime, I would love to hear some of the characters you have collected over the years.

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21 Comments

  1. Alex Willging said,

    I confess that I pretty much was “The Dreamer” when I visited London and Dublin a few years ago. That is, when I wasn’t snapping pictures of every landmark and eye-catching boulevard I encountered.

    An excellent post. It’s nice to see that your writing mind wasn’t switched off during your trip.

  2. Agatha82 said,

    I remember the soldiers by the Eiffel tower. I wasn’t faced by them at all for some reason.

    Right, I want to know, I bet the Tourist was English? Seriously, you’ve just described half of our population going abroad. We’re experts at shouting loud in English and critisising everyone else’s food. We do not blend in very well 😉

    I had a great laugh that you mostly saw the Dreamers here in London. Lots of those around here but I also see a different version of the Tourist here. These are the ones who stop in the middle of busy Oxford Street heaving with pedestrians and gawk at something, then, they take out their maps and gawk again at something, usually pointing at the map then at the road.

    Speaking of tourists…
    Someone please tell me WHY tourists in London go around wearing “I love London” t-shirts or t-shirts with the English flag? Do they think they blend in? No dears, you stick out like sore thumbs and our friendly pickpockets will go right for you. You think we haven’t got them? Oh yes we do….(an American friend of mine had her wallet stolen from her rucksack as we walked through Oxford street)

  3. Mason Canyon said,

    Glad you’re home safe and sound. It appears you did find some interesting characters along the way. One thing struck me reading about these characters, the story that The Bore told – was he the main subject of it? For him to retell it over and over, it would seem he had to be the center of attention. Just wondering. Good luck with all you have going on.

    Mason
    Thoughts in Progress

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      No – he wasn’t actually in the story at all. It was some random news story he found fascinating that he seemed to be trying to link to everything he saw for some reason.

  4. Lua said,

    “The tourist is the one who actually believes that speaking louder will help people understand the words they are saying.” haha I know these people- they are everywhere! 🙂
    The funny thing is, whenever I go to London, I become more of a ‘Dreamer’ than I already am… Maybe it’s the air? 🙂

  5. Juliet Boyd said,

    Those Dreamers must be tourists. My experience of living in London, the locals do everything at 100 mph (if not faster).

  6. catwoods said,

    I’m a big people watcher too. And since I’m heading to New Orleans for a youth gathering, I will have to keep your post in mind. I’ll be surrounded by lots of screaming, excited teens. Novel fodder in the making.

  7. Southpaw said,

    It’s so fun to watch people! I like the characters you described, er not all in real life though.

  8. AlexJ said,

    Well you’ve a lot of interesting new characters to work into a story now!

  9. Carol Kilgore said,

    Have fun with your guests. I like how you came up with categories for people. Maybe I should try something like that. I’m a people watcher, too.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Strange how we hate labels when applied to us but we do seem to like giving them.

  10. Danielle said,

    Hi Cassandra! Thanks for stopping by my blog. I currently split my time between the US and OZ.

    Death’s Daughter sounds interesting. I look forward to reading it.

    Take care,

    Danielle

  11. Lynn Rush said,

    Awesome.
    When I was on the 18 hour flight (including layovers and such) I people watched like crazy. Got a few ideas of characters, for sure!

    I love people watching. Your descriptions are great.

    Thanks for the post.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I was trying to block out the plane. Something about planes turns perfectly reasonable people into short tempered, self-absorbed, pains in the neck. Maybe it is the confined space.

  12. Stephen Tremp said,

    My characters reflect a little bit of me, some more than others. My protagonist and his best buddy are complete opposites. Chase is modeled after Matthew McConaughy and Bennie modeled after George Castanaza from Seinfeld. These differences allow for internal and external conflcit that help drive the plot along.

    Stephen Tremp

  13. jannatwrites said,

    Welcome back, Cassandra! I’ve never been to Europe, but it sounds like you had a wonderful time!

  14. Smander said,

    I saw two women the other day sitting drinking coffee. They were so posh. They drank their coffee with extended pinkies and wore way too much makeup for grandmas. They were draped in jewels and wore high heals despite being about 90! I thought to myself, ‘these old birds would make two wonderful, bitter characters!’ Thanks for the food for thought.

    P.s. I have awarded you a Lovely Blog award! You’ve probably had heaps of these but you can pick this one up at my blog and share the love.

  15. Nikole Hahn said,

    Ego Man: He talks loudly in the coffee shop so everyone can hear about his great book idea. I took the table nearby because his hand gyrations were interesting. He wore Magnum PI white shorts (Only Magnum can get away with that one), a polo shirt, and he wore a beard. It was as if he was trying to sell his book.

    I listened, sipped my coffee, and smirked. He would be a perfect character for a story–more like someone a character trips over on their way to a bigger plot.

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