When you think about it, all of our lives are filled with characters. Humans with personalities, opinions, and quirks. These characters can energize us, amuse us, and teach us things we otherwise would never have learned.
To me, the best kind of entertainment, whether it be on the stage, the big screen in a dark movie theater, on the good old boob tube, or within the pages of a novel, incorporates interesting characters. Characters that intrigue us, make us laugh, and make us wish they were real people in our own very real lives.
As I ponder publishing the little bit of fiction I began a few months ago, I find it unavoidable to not consider characters I love or have loved, both in real life and in the media.
Those characters that speak to my heart and compel me to write about them. I just can’t imagine coming up with completely original fictional characters without infusing them with at least some pieces of the non-fictional characters I have known.
So let me tell you about a few characters I’ve known. Those who are long gone from this earth who impacted my life in ways they likely never knew.
For instance, the man who taught me how to swim. He was full of life and always had a good joke (some of them quite inappropriate) to tell us. He loved my mom’s cooking and I believe that is one of the main things that endeared him to her. I remember him leading a pack of kids (his grandkids, my nephews) in the “Macarena” dance at my parent’s cabin in the early 90’s. He was a husband, father, teacher, swim coach, and an artist. I have a beautiful piece of his artwork hanging in my guest bedroom in fact. In his spare time, which it doesn’t seem he could possibly had too much of, he did some clowning around with the Shriners. He lived for those times when he could don his wacky rainbow wig and cherry colored nose and delight the children (young and old) in small town parades in the summertime. His funeral was epic, as was the party for his closest family and friends that was held afterwards. He was my godfather.
Then there’s the woman who always had yellow cake, from a box, with chocolate frosting on top sitting in her pantry, waiting for us to devour it when we came to visit. She was terribly hard of hearing and once called Hubs “Cobb” because she thought he was my old boyfriend “Todd”. She loved playing cards and always had the latest National Enquirers and TV guide magazines sitting in racks next to her plastic covered “davenport”. She was a massive fan of wigs, as she found it fun to be able to change her look whenever she damn well pleased. She kept these wigs perched on styrofoam heads on the top shelves of her walk in closet. As a kid, that always scared the shit out of me. She enjoyed herself a cocktail or two and as a result, my cousins christened with the nickname “Pearl Pearl the Party Girl”. She was my grandma.
And finally, there was woman who always had a wonderful rapport with the children she loved, but for reasons only known to her always believed she would not make a good mother, so she remained childless. She had a silly sense of humor as well as a way with the wisecracks. She always said she would have made an excellent boy scout, which everyone who knew her agreed with. She was always prepared, often anticipating the needs of others. She made an awesome Pillsbury dough-boy costume she wore for Halloween. She was a take-charge-but-in-a-kind and loving way sort of person. She paid attention to people and had the very biggest heart. Some of her favorite songs were “Werewolves in London” by Warren Zevon and “Fancy” by Reba McIntire. Every time I hear either of those songs the corners of my mouth do an automatic upturn. She was my (non-biological) sister, my guardian angel, and my best friend.
Tell me, big-hearted readers, who are the characters in your life that have shaped you and informed you as a writer?