Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Using Real People As Character -types in Writing

For the month of June I am going to blog about character observations of real people.  Good writing includes great characters, both good and bad. Do you enjoy people-watching and forming opinions about people from their actions and mannerisms? I do. But we only see on the surface. We can’t truly know the heart and mind of anyone.

Today I’ll talk about Louise – not her real name.  She’s hard to miss because Louise makes sure she’s not overlooked.

We all know people who are focused on, and love to talk about, their physical ailments. Louise should teach a class on it. She has mastered this. Do not, I repeat, do not sit next to Louise unless you are prepared to hear a litany of her ailments and illnesses – real and imagined, but more imagined, I would surmise.

She is a nice enough person. I don’t believe she has a mean bone in her body. But oh, those bones of her body! In the past few years I’ve known her she has had every illness, disease, and condition. If she truly has had those conditions, which includes cancer in various body parts and several deadly diseases, she should not be alive.

But she is very much alive. How do I know? Whenever I see her, she struggles out of her seat and proceeds to moan and limp around holding her back with a pained expression on her face.

Please don’t think I am heartless and Louise really is suffering. I’ve seen her rush to her truck because her husband wants to leave – this after she has spent the time moaning and limping.

Intermittently Louise will announce that she is healed and pain-free. No limping. No moaning. But this announcement is quickly followed by her announcement that they—whoever they are –  have found cancer, or she’s diabetic, or has lupus, shingles, congestive heart failure, and the list goes on and on. Eventually those ailments fail to materialize or don’t have the desired effect, so she’s back to limping and moaning.

Louise is not old; she’s probably mid 40’s. Her husband always looks embarrassed by her antics. What would your in-depth conclusion be on someone like Louise? On the surface, I would say she’s a drama queen. She craves attention. She’s a hypochondriac extraordinaire.

All those surface conclusions don’t get to the real issue deep within the heart of Louise. I have no idea what has happened in her life to make her this way. I can only guess. Recently she has glommed onto me. I groan and ask God to help me be kind and patient -- help me show her hope and a better way, that she is likable and lovable as she is; she doesn't need an ailment for people to care. 

But, oh how I can use a Louise-type in my fiction writing. That’s the beauty of being a people-watcher if you are a writer.

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