PDA

View Full Version : Real Life Characters (share yours!)



Pepper
05-05-2009, 08:46 AM
I wanted to share a thought that struck me this morning. Most novice (and some established) writers have difficulty writing believable characters. It's as though they don't live in the real world, don't see the Real Life Characters that are part of every day life. Their story's characters are empty placeholders where real people should be.

Roald Dahl's children stories are full of characters inspired from his life. In fact, some of his characters are openly plagiarised from his life. He saw people who were interesting, and wrote about them.

If there are people you've met/seen/known in your life who've left an impression on you, I'd like you to share. I'll start off with a couple that spring to mind, in an attempt to get the ball rolling......


-------------------------------------------

There was a girl I knew back in school who was a fairly stereotypical nerd. No friends, head always in a book, plain in appearance. I was one of those 'in-between' kids- friends with both the nerds and the 'popular' kids. So naturally, when I see this girl sitting alone in art class, I sit with her to give her some company. I wouldn't have done that if I'd known this barnacle would stick.

She followed me everywhere, took all the same classes as me, loitered in the same areas of the school yard during break, even tried to befriend my friends. Then the weird stuff started happening. When she heard I was writing my first novel, she started writing a novel. I painted fantasy in art class, she took up the genre. She started to wear the same clothes as me, the same jewellery, the same school gear. She'd even cut and dyed her hair to mimic mine. If I changed anything about my appearance, you could guarantee that the following school day she'd made the change too.

At first I'd humour her, I guess because I kinda felt sorry for her. But the longer it went on, the more freaked out I'd get. Others were noticing her behaviour.
One day, I told her exactly how weird she was acting. She responded by repeating every word I said, for the rest of the day (thinking she was real funny the whole time). I blew up at her in front of a crowd of people, calling her all sorts of names, making it crystal clear I didn't want anything to do with her. She cried, which didn't make me feel good. I hardly saw her after that. I might catch a glimpse of her walking into a classroom, or buying food at the canteen.
I suddenly think of her again, many years later, because I saw her working as a clerk at a discount store the other day. She was older, but otherwise completely unchanged. Her hairstyle was horribly outdated- it was the same hairstyle I had back in school.

-------------------------------------------

I have an uncle who is incredibly stubborn and a chronic procrastinator. He's short, overweight, going blind and going bald. He reminds everyone of that George character from Seinfeld. He used to own a lawn mower repair shop- one that I painted when I was 9 years old because he couldn't 'ever find the time to do it himself'.
He lived with his mother until the day she died. He's in trouble with debt collectors because he never pays anything on time- ever. His mother, even in her old age, used to keep on top of the bills. He 'never had the time for paperwork'.

He falls for gimmicks all the time. His garage is full of gym equipment bought from midday TV. He participated in online IQ quizzes that asked for his mobile phone number in order to play- and then wondered where the $50 a week subscription charges were coming from. He sent himself to hospital after trying out the "Grape Diet"- he still doesn't see why he shouldn't continue. His computer is regularly infected with viruses because he can't resist clicking on things he shouldn't. I won a million bucks? Click. New all-improved anti-virus software of the professionals? Click. Free computer games delivered to your door? Click.

My uncle then decides he's going to make a living off buying and repairing old classic motorcycles and selling them on for a huge profit. He discovers Ebay. He's got 60 motorcycles and counting littering his yard, garage and shed, all in various stages of degradation. He "hasn't had the time" to touch any of them yet, but that won't stop him from snapping up another deal.

I once asked my uncle why the fingernail of his right pinky finger was so horribly long. He told me it was so he could effectively pick his nose.

-------------------------------------------


Okay, those were both unflattering Real Life Characters. I've got a few saints in my life that I'd like to share, but this post is already too long.

Anyone else got characters to share? :popcorn:

backslashbaby
05-05-2009, 04:42 PM
Wow, that first one is a little kooky!

Mine? I could write a book ;) OK, at least one that your uncle reminded me about. Not real writing. I'm avoiding real writing at the moment.


Someone I know but can't say how. He went to Alaska to try to find gold. Tried to find shipwrecks for a while. Has a penchant for those green grass juices, and their pyramid schemes. Earlier, he raised his family on an island where the US did tests for their nuclear program; the seashells from there are like none I'd ever seen. I know the name of the place well but have never found it on a map. Now, because of money issues, his family doesn't know where he is, but they saw him at Christmas, bearing tiny tvs and carribou meat. He has to look away from any camera. The stories he tells are jaw-dropping. I can't use any of them in my stories. We talk about James Bond a lot, and laugh and drink Russian tea.

A great guy.

Manix
05-05-2009, 04:59 PM
Wow, that first one is a little kooky!

Mine? I could write a book ;) OK, at least one that your uncle reminded me about. Not real writing. I'm avoiding real writing at the moment.


Someone I know but can't say how. He went to Alaska to try to find gold. Tried to find shipwrecks for a while. Has a penchant for those green grass juices, and their pyramid schemes. Earlier, he raised his family on an island where the US did tests for their nuclear program; the seashells from there are like none I'd ever seen. I know the name of the place well but have never found it on a map. Now, because of money issues, his family doesn't know where he is, but they saw him at Christmas, bearing tiny tvs and carribou meat. He has to look away from any camera. The stories he tells are jaw-dropping. I can't use any of them in my stories. We talk about James Bond a lot, and laugh and drink Russian tea.

A great guy.

What a character! My dad is pretty eccentric. We laugh about all the kooky stuff he's done. He once cooked up some road-kill (a fox) that he found, only mostly-dead by the side of the road, into a stew with potatoes and carrots. (The rest of the family left the house for the evening). He buys old car parts and stores them in a big barn behind his place, but never intends on doing anything with them. He dug a well on our property in the 70's using a 1903 well-drilling rig that he bought and refurbished--lost several custom-made bits down in the hole, and ended up paying someone upwards of ten grand to dig another one right next to it. Yup. I could go on, but I won't use up the entire thread... He's a character.

pjlove51
05-06-2009, 03:21 AM
When I do stand up comedy I always make fun of my family, we're nuts. In the childrens book I wrote all the characters are named after a pet I've had or a person I know. It helps to use familar things.

creamofmushroom
05-06-2009, 03:39 AM
once met a stranger and talked to him for around one hour. never met him again but one character i have is based on an older, grandfatherly version of him.

backslashbaby
05-06-2009, 04:34 AM
This question was posted in Office Party when I told my story. But if Sandbox is to give folks ideas for or help with their work, then that's a bit different.

I don't mind telling my anecdote in Office Party, but I'd rather not imply that I'm suggesting folks use it for their work.

Pepper
05-06-2009, 04:44 AM
This question was posted in Office Party when I told my story. But if Sandbox is to give folks ideas for or help with their work, then that's a bit different.

I don't mind telling my anecdote in Office Party, but I'd rather not imply that I'm suggesting folks use it for their work.

I echo this! Can we have this moved back to Office Party please? I simply wanted people to relate the 'real life characters' in their own lives, as it's from our own lives from which we draw inspiration. This isn't supposed to be a library of characters for newbies to slot into their stories. ;)

backslashbaby
05-06-2009, 04:58 AM
I'm glad I didn't bug you with saying that, Pepper :)

It's a fun topic, and I have more to tell ;)

I won't make them like writing at all if that helps, mods :D

dpaterso
05-06-2009, 11:17 AM
Thread was moved sideways to The Sandbox with best of intentions -- nudged back to Office Party for friendly chat mode rather than character development.

Just FYI, The Sandbox isn't supposed to be a place where folks can help themselves to your ideas without permission. That's a huge no-no. If you post there, you invite suggestions from other members to make your story idea stronger for your benefit.

-Derek

backslashbaby
05-06-2009, 06:08 PM
Thank you Derek :)

backslashbaby
05-06-2009, 07:02 PM
I'd love to hear more from y'all who say you're thinking of more. Unfortunately, my relationship with the folks I'm thinking of is important to the character, and that makes it tough ;)

A brief meeting: in an Austrian train station cafe, my boyfriend and I ended up meeting two very nice, very insane men. They had coffee beside us while we talked about where to go next. One man was in a wheelchair, spoke a minimum of 3 languages, and kept barking like a dog before apologizing and saying he was crazy. The other man plotted out how many miles to where my boyfriend and I were from and kept repeating '6,000 miles' in German. Otherwise, it was like any other meeting you'd have as American tourists in a train station cafe, and pleasant enough. We sent the 6,000 miles dude a postcard when we got home :)

Kitty Pryde
05-06-2009, 07:38 PM
I was sitting outside at a bar in San Francisco with my partner enjoying a beer, when five huge scruffy hell's angels type guys in leathers descended on our table. They asked if they could sit with us and sat down before we could answer. (We were the only people there, and there were other tables inside and outside. They wanted to know all about us and what we did for a living. They brought pitchers of PBR and topped off my partner's half-drunk expensive imported beer with PBR, just to be polite. (Now, my dad has a Harley Sportster, so I'm not frightened of biker dudes by default, but there were a lot of them and they were very large and very boisterous, so I was pretty weirded out.)

The hugest, scruffiest one with the most spectacular beard started talking to me about his babies. He was saying how much he missed his babies when he was on the road, and how they were his pride and joy, and going on and on about how wonderful they were. I was actually quite touched at this display of manly man emotion.

He asked if I wanted to see pictures, so of course I said yes. He whips a stack of 3x5 photos out of his pocket to show me...choppers. His babies are choppers (yanno, custom motorcycles), not children. He has pictures of them posed in front of various scenic barns and whatnot. He had like 5 different bikes and he told me lovingly all about them until it was time for my partner and I to leave.

Pepper
05-07-2009, 04:20 AM
Thread was moved sideways to The Sandbox with best of intentions

No worries! :) Thanks for moving it back. ^_^

Great stories everyone- keep 'em coming. ^_^



I once worked with a girl who was an absolute saint. She'd chosen to apply for the job in pharmacy because she wanted "to help people get better" (from their sicknesses). She worked part time while she went to university, studying to be a primary school teacher.

She was incredibly intelligent, and had a strong sense of what was right and wrong. She wasn't religious in any way ("I believe there's Something out there, but that doesn't mean I have to conform to the religions of men"), but behaved like a church girl.

Personally, I don't swear much (my Aussie accent makes my voice rough enough without adding a trashy mouth to the mix too). You should have seen her face when I let one rip one day- her eyes went wide, her mouth hung open. "BELINDA. You swore!"

She never got involved in the politics of the workplace. She never did anything that would put her on one side or the other- she remained on neutral ground at all times. She was everyone's friend, and everyone loved her. When she was around, everyone was happier.

She had the ability to laugh at herself- despite being intelligent, she was also a ditz. I remember once me and her were cleaning out the window display. There's not much room to move around in there. When she bent down to pick up her washcloth, she cracked her head on the corner of a glass shelf. It hurt enough to bring a tear to her eye, but she couldn't stop laughing at herself. Not ten minutes later, she did the exact same thing again, hitting the exact same spot. She had to sit down for laughing so hard, at the same time blood beaded on her forehead. It was one of those 'you had to be there' moments.

I was shocked to learn of her story. She blurted it all out one day, and told me everything.
Her parents broke up when she was very young. Her father didn't want her, so the mum was 'stuck' with her. Her mum spent the next few years having casual flings with various men. She grew used to having strangers in the house. When she was abused by one of these men, she was moved to live with her grandparents.
When the grandparents moved into a nursing home, she moved in with a friend from school because her mother had "grown used to her not being in the house" and wouldn't take her back. When her friend had an argument with her (about boys), she moved in with her boyfriend. A couple years later, when she realised her boyfriend was a dropkick, she dumped him and was left homeless, sleeping in her car. She lived like that until her work was stable enough that she could rent her own apartment.

I couldn't understand how someone who had such a bad childhood could grow up to be such a kind, well-adjusted person. She told me that she was always determined not to be like the bad people in her life. Why would she want to be like them when she'd been on the receiving end of their bad behaviour? She wants to be a primary school teacher so she can be a positive role model for the children, because she knows first hand that kids don't always have a positive role model at home.


I hope that girl gets everything she wants in life- she deserves it. ^_^