Archive | 1:46 pm

No Need To Dream Up Characters

29 Aug

I was thinking the other day about a kid I grew up with; we’ll call him Bobby Mertins because it would serve no purpose in using his real name.

Bobby was one of those people who are perpetually in the background.  There was nothing particularly interesting about him.  He was not good at sports, and social interaction with Bobby was like interacting with a door knob.  I don’t say that to be cruel but rather to point out that Bobby just wasn’t someone you remember with any clarity.

He was always in our pickup baseball games, a warm body to help make up a team, but he was a very bad player.  He would be there to play hide-and-seek, he would take part in impromptu wrestling matches, or snowball fights, but he just wasn’t that much fun to play with.  I’m sure we all remember someone like that from our childhood, a kid always on the periphery of the action but never a key player in any activity.

Bobby committed suicide last year.  I just happened to see his obituary in the online newspaper from my hometown of Tacoma, saw that he had died, contacted an old friend from the neighborhood, and he confirmed that Bobby shot himself with a shotgun.  Sixty-four years old . . . sixty-four years on this planet and really a mystery for most of those sixty-four years.

Bobby will be in one of my upcoming novels.  I owe him that.

I hear all the time writers saying that they are struggling to develop characters, and I wonder how that is possible.  A writer who observes life is surrounded by future characters in their books.  All you have to do is pay attention and rely on recall from time to time.

I had an uncle who suffered from PTSD. He had been in World War 2, on a battleship which was attacked by the Japanese in the Pacific, and when he came home from that war he was a changed man.  He drank heavily, would never talk about the horrors he encountered, and spent years trying to piece his jigsaw of a life back together.

He will be in one of my books soon.

Human beings are fascinating.

Pay attention to them.

If you are accepting of them, they will gladly write your books for you.


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”