time to create some characters

I’ve often mentioned that one of my favorite things to do is people watch…and I’ve admitted that it isn’t always a charitable activity on my part. When I say that it’s uncharitable, I don’t mean that I am devising insane and intentionally mean judgments of people, but rather, that I am working on a kind of characterization.

I am building imaginary characters from details that I see. I call it uncharitable because I am using real human beings as my starting points, and I am drawing from their visual details. It’s voyeuristic, I suppose, but it’s how I people the short stories that I write. I’m not above doing it to myself, by the way, and garnered a little bit of confusion when I created a character based upon myself — and got some pretty pointed questions from friends and family. Ha. By the way, dear friends, I don’t do this to you. I have a conscience. I promise.

Anyway, characterization is important, and I met someone this weekend, a poet, who goes to the airport and sits under the big escalator at baggage claim and watches the people come down. She pointed out that the first thing she sees is shoes, and she writes these amazing character descriptions about shoes, and what kind of people wear those shoes.

Um, Linda? Shoes? I’d get really self-conscious if this woman delves into hair, but the conversation shifted a little and all I was left with was the validation that either what I do is normal, or I have found another person crazier than me (ok, in full disclosure, I have gone to the airport to people watch).

I have this minor in psychology, mostly classes on personality development and abnormal psychology (I would have double-majored in psych but I couldn’t do the lab — ew. I couldn’t bring myself to work with the rats.) So the classes in personality development, all very interesting theories and such, but I could have saved time and money if I had considered just taking courses in Agatha Christie novels. Specifically, anything with Miss Marple.

Miss Marple is this old lady who solves crimes because she observes people, chalks up who they remind her of in her home town, and then responds to them accordingly. I’ve really simplified that a great deal, but I think that she has a really strong theory — this Marple Theory of Personality Development. Anyway, it works for me, and I was reminded of it this weekend when I sat in seminar after seminar seating, people-watching. It was fun and entertaining. And I think I’m ready for NaNoWriMo now.

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