Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Inspired by Life

CHARACTERS: Lady in the Red Hat

I was driving home from the bank the other day, and saw a woman walking down the sidewalk. Calf-length flowered sundress, carefree walk, bright RED wide-brimmed sunhat. The breeze rippled her skirt around her long legs. I wondered what her hair was like, because all I saw was the RED hat. Was her hair short? Was it long…and if so, how did she tuck it under the hat?

Or wait. Maybe she'd undergone chemotherapy--and she had no hair. Interesting theory.

Little snippets of her possible character started developing in my mind.

I stopped at the stoplight and continued to observe (yeah, we writers are weird, stalkerish people). At that point I smiled, because I saw that instead of wearing sandals or flip-flops to match her feminine attire, this woman wore clunky boot-like shoes. Aha! Not your typical girlie-girl. An individual, someone not afraid to lose the overall ultra-feminine effect by pairing her sundress with stomp-worthy boots. That, or else she was very practical. I mean, if she planned to walk a lot that day, she'd need more of a hiking kind of footwear, right?

And then I glimpsed the final impression-changer: one of her hands came up from her side, and she took a drag on a cigarette. That surprised me! But her being a smoker did kind of match the boots. Nix the practical theory for the boots--back to the rebel individual, anti-girlie theory. The red hat was the initial flag that waved "I don't mind standing out!" Her character was solidifying before my eyes.

I wondered…do the characters in my books ever surprise my readers like that? Or are the kids, teens, and adults in my novels more like stock characters, easily put into a well-defined category? Normal. Safe. PREDICTABLE. Do I ever go beyond "normal" characters and make them individuals? Am I afraid to drop something more unusual into the mix, for fear that it won't seem "realistic" or "right" for that character? Fascinating revelation.

What about you and your characters? 

A word of caution. You can go totally bonkers and overdo the unpredictable factor while making your characters stand out and be different. I've read books where almost every single character has an eccentric, bizarre, or unusual trait. Like (and I'm making these up) Uncle Harold has an alligator farm…petite elderly neighbor Ms. Crayville races stock cars in her spare time…BFF Hilary adores scorpions and utilizes them to get even with her ex-boyfriends.

It can reach overload in a short time. The quirkiness begins to be the new norm. As you read, you don't experience the exhilaration of glimpsing a parrot in a flock of crows. You experience…a flock of parrots.

Do you people-watch, and get writing ideas from people you see or meet in real life?
Do you tend to make your characters normal and predictable--or are they quirky?
What's your favorite zany/quirky/eccentric character you've read about in a book?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Puns for Warped Minds

Hi everyone! I've been busily house-hunting here in the Chico, CA, area instead of blogpost writing (or alas, even writing, period). Therefore you will now be subjected to a punny list from a forward I got in an email a long while back. Enjoy the wonders of the English language…or groan at the corny-ness of these quips.

1. The fattest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.
2. I thought I saw an eye-doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.
3. She was only a whisky-maker, but he loved her still.
4. A rubber-band pistol was confiscated from an algebra class because it was a weapon of math disruption.
5. No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.
6. A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.
7. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.
8. Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.
9. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
10. Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
11. Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other: "You stay here; I'll go on a head."
12. I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.
13. A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: "Keep off the Grass."
14. The midget fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.
15. The soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.
16. A backward poet writes inverse.
17. In a democracy it's your vote that counts.  In feudalism it's your count that votes.
18. When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.
19. If you jumped off the bridge in Paris, you'd be in Seine.
20. A vulture carrying two dead raccoons boards an airplane. The stewardess looks at him and says, "I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger."
21. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.
22. Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says, "I've lost my electron." The other says,  "Are you sure?" The first replies, "Yes, I'm positive."
23. Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root- canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.
24. There was the person who sent ten puns to friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.

So did you chuckle--or groan--at these puns? Any faves?
What have YOU been doing for the last week?
Has your weather cooled off for fall, or are you living in a place like Chico where it's STILL 88-95 degrees during the day?