Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Characters are Everywhere

by Rebecca Talley

I was supposed to post yesterday. I missed my previous post because I had a great excuse, I was in Hawaii. But, yesterday, I simply forgot in my focus on getting my next manuscript ready for submission, preparing for the LDStorymakers conference, and taking care of my family and house.

While I was in Hawaii, my husband decided we should check out the north shore to see the big waves. The day before we got there, the waves were rumored to be about 30 feet--those are some big waves. When we arrived at Waimea (I think that's how you spell it) Bay the waves were 12-15 feet high and my husband went body surfing. He got pounded. The beach was gorgeous and I was glad we went (not glad my husband got pounded, though).

Since we were staying on the other side of the island on Waikiki Beach we decided to take the city bus to the north shore (takes almost 2 hours, but only costs $2). On our ride back, I wished I'd had my notebook because I saw such interesting characters.

The most interesting, in a sad way, was a skinny, middle-aged Hawaiian man. His black hair was matted, but stuck up on top. His clothes were mismatched. His hands were black with dirt and his eyes were wild. He didn't say much, but constantly stood while we were driving and acted as though he were fishing. He'd cast a line, wait for a moment, and then acted as if he were gathering up a net. He stepped close to several of us riding in the bus and gathered up something behind our heads. Invading my personal space made me feel uncomfortable, but watching him made me so sad. I'd guess he fried his brain on drugs. I realized, while taking in his pantomines, that "characters" are all around us. Maybe he won't ever be a character in any of my books, but the experience made me more observant. I never ride public transportation at home (we don't have any here in the boonies), but what a goldmine if you need to pan for character traits.

I also saw a lady in her seventies, I'd guess, that was wearing a white suit with a mini skirt. She carried a little dog in a fancy carrier, had long dyed red hair, wore a lot of jewelry and makeup, and carried a cell phone. A woman who refused to acknowledge her age, perhaps? A woman who was searching for love? I let my imagination wander as I observed her and tried to make some mental notes.

We also made some local friends along the way and I noticed a speech pattern. Locals add "yeah" to the ends of their sentences. "You like it here, yeah?" "You saw the Dole pineapple plantation, yeah?" "Going to see the big waves, yeah?" "I've lived here for ayear, yeah." It was interesting, once I noticed it, to hear the locals use it.

Who knew that public transportation would provide so many character ideas? The next time I'm stuck on a character, I think I'll drive to the city and hop on a bus for an hour or two. Or, better yet, I'll fly over to Hawaii and ride the city bus again--sounds like a great idea to me :).


Rachael Renee Anderson said...

Congrats! It's a great feeling to wash your hands of a ms (at least for awhile) by sending it off to the publisher. Your Hawaii trip sounded wonderful and thanks for the tip--I'll now be on the lookout for interesting characters. :)

Gregg said...

Hawaii sounded fantastic! Thanks for dropping by my site. Hope you enjoyed it.

Don said...

Ah, yes - TheBUS. How many hours did I spend going around and around that little island on those sticky vinyl seats. As a young teen, that was THE way to get around. And the characters are certainly ripe for the watching.

I'm glad you enjoyed your trip. Hawaii is the best, yeah? (Sorry - it just comes out whenever I hear someone else talk li'dat.)