Saturday, April 16, 2011

She's a Real Character

Sometimes you create a character from the ground up. You have a vague idea that you want a sidekick or a foil and you start trying on different bits and pieces until you find the mix that feels right - sorta like those board books where you can flip a third of the page at a time and mix and match different foreheads, eyes and chins until you make up some silly face.

Sometimes a character surprises you by jumping from your head onto the page, fully formed and full of attitude. Those are the ones that wake me up in the morning and tell me, "Come on, it's time to write more about my encounter with that character I loathe! Don't leave me with her. You gotta write me out of that scene!"

But then there are other characters. Ones that accost you on the street. Yesterday I ran to the store for lunch and, as usual when I go to the store hungry, ended up with four large bags of food. My trunk is full with stuff I'm donating to charity, so I went to put my groceries into my back seat. The space I had between me and the minivan next to me was cramped and I was trying very hard to get my groceries in without my door hitting their door. Then I heard the passenger window roll down and a raspy voice say "Excuse me!"

I thought, oh no, I've accidentally bumped their car. I turned around slowly, planting a grin on my face. "Yes?"

"I see you bought the green grapes. Are they any good?" Her accent was from the Old World, maybe a Mediterranean country. Her fingers were curled up like Autumn leaves.

"I dunno, I haven't had any."

"I like them when they are firm, you know? When they burst in your mouth."

I nodded.

"Can I try one of yours? If they're any good I'll ask my daughter to get me some."

"Sure," I said, wondering how often this woman scams snacks off unwary strangers. I fumbled to open the ziplocked bag, my own hands full of car keys and a cell phone.

Her daughter approached the car. "What are you doing, mom? Are you bugging this lady?"

"Nah, I'm just giving her a grape," I said, still struggling with the bag.

"Help her!" the woman demanded of her daughter, impatience driving her voice higher.

"I think this is kind of a one person job, Mom," her daughter said, shifting back and forth on her feet.

Finally I opened the bag and held it out to the woman. She plucked a grape and said "firm!" approvingly. Then she bit into it. And spit it back into her hand.

"Any good?" her daughter asked.

"Eh, so-so," the woman replied, clearly lying.

"Oh well," I said, and proceeded to put the bags in the car, and put the cart away.

As I climbed into my car to leave, I heard the woman cry out, "I hope you like sour grapes!"

Sour grapes were a small price to pay for the gift of this character.

1 comment:

  1. LMAO! I love that encounter. Sometimes we writers can't even touch *real life.* A seasoned writer couldn't have written that any better.