Boogers and Farts by Author Stephen Brayton

Author Stephen Brayton is by my blog today with some fun writing advice!

What could these two things possibly have to do with the writing process? Well, have you considered putting them into a story? If you’re writing books for children, okay. Why not others?

I’m referring to a topic I’ve written about in the past. Character quirks. I know many things are important for a great story. Plot, dialogue, setting, quality writing, and of course, characters. With any of these being poor, the story fails, so I’m not putting any more importance on the last one. I just like to read about good characters. Sometimes the plot is something standard but the characters will make it interesting.

I’ve mentioned this in other blogs and interviews, but many of my characters in my books are based upon actual people, or traits actual people exhibit. While researching material for “Beta”, I encountered a secretary at one business who showed no interest in assisting me in my inquiries. I’m sure my name and number I left, was left in the trash can about thirty seconds after I departed. She went into the story. At the next place, I met a receptionist who didn’t understand what I wanted. She became so flustered she passed the buck off to another person who directed me to the Internet where I found a contact number…anyway, I received no help there either. The original receptionist found a place in the book, too. The genteel and courteous office manager at a trucking company was also included as was the surly looking meat market clerk.

I’ve remembered my maternal grandparents in this book when my main character, Mallory Petersen, makes a visit to the Quad Cities.

I have fun developing traits for my characters. What interesting actions or words can I have them say or do? Sure, some I create out of thin air, but others come from everyday people. In Beta’s sequel I mention a gentleman in a coffee shop having a very animated conversation with his invisible friend. The guitar player is based on my best friend Chris (sorry, he prefers Tofer). I introduce a Narcotics investigator who audibly slurps his coffee and frequently sniffs. These two traits I observed in one person I met through my night job. I work in a place where different people show up daily, which provides plenty of fodder for characters. Recently, I had to roust a half naked drunkard lying in the hallway back to his room. Another time a drunk was passed out and while trying to wake him, he, yes, farted. I’ll always remember these two and I’m sure they’ll end up in a future story.

One morning, I watched a family discuss the previous night’s events. One sister sat very primly and properly on the edge of the sofa while another leaned back comfortably. A third drooped in her chair. The funniest member, the grandmother, sat with her leg over one arm of her chair, and exhibited a laid back attitude. While they talked, I wrote down descriptions for future use.

Other people I’ve met or observed and will remember for future stories: The intoxicated Japanese businessman. The homeless woman sleeping in her station wagon. The blustering man who left his wife because she didn’t want to continue to be at the casino and celebrate his success. A former coworker who wore shorts skirts to the office. Her replacement whose attitude could maim a cold fish. Four guys discussing boats for hours. An alcoholic boss. (A previous one, not the current one.) A desk clerk who admitted to her boss she was too stoned to work her shift. The Asian woman in the coffee shop holding a camera with a huge lens snapping pictures of three cup of coffee.

If you’re looking for unique characters, don’t frustrate yourself by trying to come up with interesting profiles. Look around you. Watch people when they drive or walk down the street. Sit in a busy park or on a bench in a skywalk system and notice who passes. Eavesdrop on conversations if you are able.

Next summer, plan to visit a county or a state fair. What better places to find endless characters for your stories. Maybe some will be associated with boogers and farts.

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About jlwylie

Stay at home mom of 2 boys, avid reader and writer. Published by Untold Press

12 thoughts on “Boogers and Farts by Author Stephen Brayton

  1. Agreed, Stephen. Eavesdropping is not only entertaining, it’s a great source of character traits.

  2. Good post, Stephen. I think it’s interesting that two writers can “people watch” the exact same scene and yet go back to their computers to create completely different characters and stories from one another. What fun!

  3. John Brantingham says:

    You do a good job of capturing characters. Those few sentences about the family with their grandmother really reveals who they are.

  4. I was hoping you’d wrap up this blog with advice not to struggle so hard to come up with “quirky” character traits when they are handed to us every day. You didn’t let me down.

    But, may I also add, people are watching us and OUR weird habits. I mean, come on, writers are the strangest bunch. Or, am I being paranoid? Who caught me farting?

  5. Some of the quirkiest people I meet turn out to be friends. Making sure that there’s a mix of different people in one character makes it doable for me. Years ago, I had one person who was horrified when she thought she recognized herself in one of my characters. I never ‘fessed up. Too close to home, I guess. That was the last time I did that. Fun post and I love the title!

  6. Paula Petty says:

    Great post! Quirky traits are so much fun from characters you least expect. This keeps characters from being boring. Thanks for the post.

  7. This is a great topic, and this is great advice. There are plenty of characters out there, so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. And sometimes writers go too far. When your main character has both an eye patch and a club foot, you’re just trying too hard!

    William Doonan

  8. augie says:

    Fantastic topic, and always on time Stephen…augie

  9. Thanks everyone for the comments. I forgot to mention my neighbors. Since I moved into my apartment nine years ago, every single tenant (except for the elderly lady who died) who has moved in (and subsequently out) has been in trouble with the law at one time or another. Drug dealer, felon, meth user, sexual offender…among others. Also, listen to the anecdotes people tell. They’re great ideas to include in stories.

  10. Eileen Obser says:

    Great topic – character traits. So easy to put into the story but also so easy to forget sometimes — adding something about the person that makes him or her stand out from the others.

    There’s a whole novel in your lawless neighbors, Stephen. Are you keeping notes?

  11. jack595 says:

    The art of observation; I had been doing this for many years before I became a writer. My mother used to shake me for looking closely at people
    because she thought it was impolite and this before I had reached ten.
    My early writing exhibited all of the traits of observation: the man with the hairy nose, the elderly woman with facial warts. There was just one problem- I described everyone and every thing and someone had to educate me only to to include description about leading characters.
    There was one tip I am sure many of you know, imagine one of your characters is short, another tall and try to see how they would and what they would. It can put another perspective into your writing. Stephen is becoming a past master at the art and although ‘booger’ is an American term even we on this side of the pond know about ‘farts.’ Keep it up all of you this is excellent.

  12. Kat Hinkson says:

    I love observing others too. It a fun past time. You can learn a lot about people by watching.

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