Author Stephen Brayton is by my blog today with some fun writing advice!
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.
My website is www.stephenbrayton.com
My blog is www.stephenlbrayton.blogspot.com
My book review blog is www.braytonsbookbuzz.blogspot.com