Wednesday, July 26, 2006

L. L. BEAN AND ME: Story Characters

I never, never, never EVER use people I know or any other real people as characters in my stories.

So where do I find my story characters? In the L. L. Bean catalogue. Or Land's End, or J. Jill, or Macy's, or Nordstrom's or any other catalogue I favor. I flip through the pages and look for smiles or eyes or a hair style or color, or any face that jumps out at me and says, "Use me. Use me." If the look fits with the plot elements I have in mind, I'll choose it.

Then I'll give that character a name. Or if I already have a name, a sort of psychic sense draws my eye to a face that naturally goes with it and with the plot. Then I tear out the page, or clip the image and tack it on the bulletin board over my computer. Once I have the look, I'll give the character flesh and bones and a personality.

Now even though I never use real people, there are times I might be inspired by something I know about a real person and use that to portray someone in a story, like maybe a character trait or some other element of a real person.

My book, "The Charmstone" due for release next April, takes place on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Monument Valley, Utah. I lived there for a time as a VISTA volunteer, and found that I used isolated impressions of the real people I met there to define some of the characters in that book.

In the story, Amanda Bell notices that Durango Yazzie wears a watch with a chunky silver and turquoise watchband. She finds it and the man wearing it very attractive. That watch is worn by my Navajo friend Don Mose, but Don is not Durango.

Amanda herself represents the essence of my VISTA mates, three strong, adventurous, courageous and bright young women. But she doesn’t look like any of them, nor does she have any facet of their personalities.

My secondary characters come alive to me just as my central characters do. But they are all created in my mind—Jack Rice, Judy and Jeremiah Moon, Elliott Sheffield, Sallie Rainwater and her two hunky sons Larry and Albert, Cammie Drew, Noah Tucker, Buck Powell. The others, the various Navajo Elders and Medicine Men and wannabes, all typify those I met or saw on the reservation, but no one in particular. In the story, they are all true to themselves.

Albums added to my iPOD:
Graceland by Paul Simon

Podcasts added to my iPOD:
Joe Frank
Joel Osteen

No comments: