Developing Characters

Be Attentive

Be Attentive

 A writing buddy of mine, once mentioned going to Panera Bread with her laptop to write. Panera Bread is right up the street from my house, but this is something that has been so far from my thoughts it would have to be written in large bold letters, and waved in front of my face (that being a tweet). I don’t know why. Anyway, the instant I read the message, the switch flipped – I threw a hand to my forehead, and thought, man, am I a ditz or what? I haven’t made it there yet, but it is definitely about to become a part of my routine, since I love being out and about, writing and people watching. I want them so sick of me that in order to keep me away, they’ll have to stamp my card. I recall reading how Ernest Hemingway frequented the local bars and restaurants in Florida to do nothing more than observe folk. He also had a compulsion to incorporate things he noticed into his own made up characters. I always try to remember this whenever I’m out anywhere, since this has always been one of my favorite pass times.

Probably since I lived in New Jersey for so long two other writers come to mind; Albert Einstein and Orson Welles. Why do I bring up New Jersey when I mention these two greats? Because in case you didn’t know, Einstein used to frequent the Nassau Inn, which sits right on Nassau Street in Princeton, since he taught at the college. Secondly, Orson Welles lit a fire to his career with the infamous War Of The Worlds broadcast of a Martian invasion in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey, which is a stones throw from Princeton. As I worked in this college town three years for a Manhattan based firm, I had the chance to get up close with these two locales. Having lunch one day at the Nassau Inn, I sat across from the wooden booth bearing Einstein’s name (it is said he carved it there). Although his works were philosophical, and not at all in the same genre as Welles or Hemingway, I still envisioned him taking in human behavior and writing on his note pad before he inscribed his name in the wood. I don’t know how Welles picked Grover’s Mill as the scene for his ruse, but he did. As a lover of the art of television, radio and the screen, he also had to have an inclination toward building personalities. Let’s think about some methods of constructing a character:

  • Watching while out having dinner or at the local watering hole;
  • Eating lunch in the park – there are others there enjoying their meal as well;
  • An oddball you remember from your past may make a controversial bad guy;
  • Friends who have lost touch;
  • Family members/Friend’s family members;
  • Boyfriends/girlfriends from the past; and
  • Growing LARGE ears and eavesdropping on nearby conversations as mannerisms are carried over into speech.

Those of us who have been around for some time know this, but are you newbies on your toes? One day my husband and I were having breakfast at the Seville Diner on Route 18 in East Brunswick when a large family across the way caught my eye. The father had three tea bags in his cup of water. Now, that’s not something you notice everyday. Of course, you know one of my people had to have that little oddity. As writers, we are attentive creatures; sometimes though, it’s not inbreed, some of us have to learn the trait. But, either way it is a critical part of creating riveting individuals in our work. Tell me how you go about devising/developing a personality?



Photos courtesy of iStockPhoto

Information provided by Nassau Inn & Wikipedia

Don’t forget, if you haven’t contributed to the Hurricane Relief efforts, you can get to Red Cross from here, by clicking on the Globe with the Band-aid.  Everyone thanks you.


3 thoughts on “Developing Characters

  1. Pingback: The Tried and the True « RillaWriter

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