Regular readers will know I’m a big advocate of walking to help with thinking through plot problems or generating story ideas, and those who tuned in to the last entry will have seen my discussion about character.
Yesterday, and the week before that, I went to a couple of car boot sales. This isn’t an unusual thing for me to do on a Sunday, even if the weather is rarely so warm, but I’d never before considered what a rich place it is for character study.
Have a look at what’s laid out and make up a back story about the reason for the sale. If a stallholder has a lot of mismatched crockery, is it from a house move? Perhaps there are a lot of records because someone has grown out of them? Then you can begin to extrapolate further, especially if you have a chance to listen in on part of their conversation.
For example, let’s say someone has a lot of signs containing inspirational quotes and is bragging about her children”s exam results. Perhaps she has so many that the time has come to sell any duplicates. Perhaps she compulsively collects them because she has low self-esteem. Perhaps she has low self-esteem because she’s always been told she’s a failure, and now relies on her children’s achievements to make her feel worthwhile. And bingo: you have a character.
I’ll also give you a real-life example of a man who sold wooden objects such as tables and bird boxes. His craftsmanship was excellent, but he would finish each one with a horrible orange-brown paint, ruining the aesthetic. Perhaps he does this because his eyesight is beginning to fail and he thinks the colour looks fine? Perhaps he’s in denial and won’t see an optician? Perhaps he constantly bumps into people and blames the other party for not paying attention? And bingo: another character.
From there, we have a story. Perhaps our craftsman bumps into the woman with low self-esteem at a car boot sale and blames her for not looking where she’s going? Maybe they start talking and find out they both love gardening? Could the story end with them moving in together on condition that he changes the colour of his creations?