Some of my most inspired characters are people I barely knew.  Like John K.  I guess he was the antithesis of me.  I was youth, he was age.  I was nimble; he was cast in his own oversized frame.  I floated, he was anchored.  I had everything figured out; he was wise to his folly.  I knew the bible verses I was taught, he knew the ones they didn’t and STILL had faith.  Air flowed through my lungs without thought or appreciation, and for John air seemed to be consciously pulled in, circulated and expelled with every labored breath.  I haven’t written much yet, but when I do, John’s character is always knocking wanting to get into every story.  He is rich, weighty, and the fact that I knew him even lightly is a huge gift

Then there’s Rosemary M.  I knew her even less than John.  To this day, when I see purple clothing or hats, I think, “Rosemary” (smiley face).  She probably would have preferred the name Violate.  She was the mother of someone much older than me, so to me, she was ANCIENT.  Somehow, she is still alive, so quick math estimation tells me she couldn’t have been nearly as ancient in the 70’s as I thought she was.  I don’t think I ever said a word to her.  I wish I had, because I know now (through Christmas letters my mother receives) that she has a wonderfully mordant sense of humor.  My favorite quote, when someone asked her how she was doing she replied, “I am deteriorating and so is my house”.  All true, I’m sure, but how many people answer an insincere question with such authenticity?  I am confident she has no recollection of me whatsoever, but shards of her will live on in my storytelling for (hopefully) decades to come.

I have to mention Brother.  He wiggled his way into a short story I wrote, and I barely knew him.  When his character came knocking, I let him in, but wished I had known him better.  I remember his face.  The quintessential face that comes to mind when I have to write of a happy, rural bachelor that never had 2 dimes to rub together.  BUT he always had candy in his pockets for my friend and me (not creepy, he was a good and trusted friend of her family).  He had snaggleteeth, and liked to show them off.  He wore a lot of flannel, and never looked overly clean.  I guess he was funny, because I remember a lot of laughter being around him, but I don’t remember single thing he ever said.   I don’t even know what his name was; we just called him Brother.

On one level or another, I have used all three of these characters in stories.  I wonder if the fact that I barely know them helps me to use them.  Maybe if I knew them better, I would be paralyzed by reality; thinking, “Oh, Brother wouldn’t say that.”  As it is, his memory is just mute enough that he adapts to any storyline or even personality.  Hmmmmm … I’d love to explore this idea of where our characters come from … I really don’t believe writers come up with anything on their own; they just pay attention to their surroundings and memory a little more than most.  Like professional sponges, they assimilate their surroundings and release them again in another form.  Wikipedia just told me that sponges emit waste; so I’ll need to think of a metaphor that feels better to my ego.   Although, maybe there is a little amoeba or protozoa that gets fat and happy on sponge waste somewhere in the big sea.   I’ll spew out all the literary waste I can if there literary protozoan that enjoy the buffet (another smiley face).

Hey readers, anyone want to share a little sketch of one of their favorite real life characters?


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