I think it’s important for you to know my process. The following are characters that I wrote about based on some writing exercises I created. I came up with a few ideas about a character, then proceeded just to write, without edification or premeditation. Sometimes, I have an outline for a story, and sometimes, I work characters into my stories after I’ve created them. I used to sit in cafes and observe people, or if I was traveling, I would make observations in an airport or train terminal and create stories around people I saw. I thought I would share some of these characters with you.
One quick bit of promotion. If you like my writing, I do offer a ZOOM writing class for only $10 / month which can be found in the Patreon portion of this blog / website. Please contact me if you are interested.
Character # 1 – HANSEN
Hansen leaned over his cane and walked slowly to the store. He cursed under his breath, cursed his body for betraying him, cursed the street for having broken sidewalks, cursed life for giving him a raw deal. He hadn’t always been such a curmudgeon, but time had a way of chipping away at him. He had always imagined that he would sail into old age with grace, but now he felt the chisel of time, whittling him into a broken, crumpled old sculpture. He thought he would be an Adonis, but instead, he was a perch for pigeons.
Everyone who met Hansen commented on his name. Was it his given name? What made his parents decide to give him a name that sounded like a cab pulled by horses? Over the years, he’d developed a few snide retorts, choosing with whom he could be utterly sarcastic, and who would be so offended that he would drive them away. In his heyday, he was quite the sight. Hansen stood 6’4’ tall and looked quite dapper in his Armani suits, confident and debonair. Now, his cursed body had decompressed and was bent from arthritis; he was barely taller than his own children. He often sported a fedora upon his chestnut hair, cropped short. Beneath was a sculpted, Grecian nose, chiseled cheekbones, lips too small for his face, but deep green eyes that penetrated with his gaze. Both women and men adored him; women who became babbling idiots and swooned when he walked into a room, forgetting that they were intelligent and articulate, and men who wanted to be him, almost always saying yes to whatever deal he was making with them. It had been difficult for them to know if they’d made the right decision, and they shook themselves awake several hours after he’d gone, deal made, papers signed.
Despite the adoration of his fans, he was deeply devoted to one woman, Andreya, who never agreed to marriage, having been married twice before, but who also worshipped the ground he walked on. The difference between her and the others was that she always kept him on his toes, and she never kowtowed to him. She had the upper hand, and she knew it. Hansen respected that; he had no use for obsequious women who would jump when he said how high. He had no use for women who were no challenge, who couldn’t think for themselves, and who did his bidding.
However, if the truth be known, he secretly loved the admiration. Hansen would never admit out loud that he needed everyone to love him, that he needed everyone to accept his every word as gospel. Yet, he could not accept that from the woman he loved because he knew that it would not be honest, and he also needed raw honesty. Sometimes, it cut him like a knife, and he protested, never admitting his flaws, never showing his vulnerability, even to her, but he knew that she knew, and that was enough.
Hansen’s decline was gradual. There was never an abrupt moment, where one day he looked in the mirror and saw a crooked old man. He saw it coming, day by day, year by year, and felt powerless to do anything about it. Hansen was not accustomed to being out of control; he’s always had a handle on his life and everything in it. He fought it. He could not welcome it. He’d even thought of suicide before he was too old to do something about it, because he had no intention of living like this, but that was just a passing thought, because he thought too much of himself to ever eliminate himself. Instead of being depressed about his status, he simply became angry.
Andreya had died years ago, so he took to having meaningless sex with a string of women, but eventually that became dull.
Character # 2 – DENISE
Quirks / Eccentricities – bites her nails, sleeps on her side, eats at odd hours due to her weird schedules, doesn’t listen when people talk alot – thinks about other things and completely misses what they are saying, often late, smokes cigarettes when she drinks but doesn’t let anyone at work know, has a facial tic that comes and goes, but that she desperately tries to hide, kind of a slob, but cleans up frantically every now and then; watches way too much TV, especially when slightly depressed
Hobbies – bowling, walks other people’s dogs, horror films, romance novels, going to basketball games; crime shows – both fiction and nonfiction
Passions – whatever man she happens to be dating, and usually their passions become her own, for instance, riding motocross, archery, shopping for furniture,
Proclivities – falling for guys that are attentive at first, but then ignore her or are rude; Rocky Road ice cream, fast food burgers
Preferences: Rock’n’roll music of the 80’s and 90’s; works too many hours when she has no boyfriend; always taking care of everyone but herself; only time for a few friends, which often involves drinking at a bar
Non-physical traits – compassionate, nurturing, good natured most of the time, careless, except in her job, tendency towards depression, but not serious or clinical
Physical Traits – about 20 pounds overweight, shoulder length mousy brown hair, often tied back in a pony tail or bun, plump cheeks, hazel eyes, typical mid-western Caucasian, no outstanding features, could be anyone’s cousin
Denise stuffed the burger down her gullet, almost inhaling it. Forget the fact that she was a nurse and was supposed to know something about health and nutrition. She was also incredibly busy, worked odd hours, sometimes swing shift or graveyard shift, sometimes for 6 days in a row. Denise didn’t have time to think much about her own health and well-being because she was busy thinking about everyone else. It’s just who she was, always taking care of others, which is why she became a nurse. Also, because she was not allowed to have pets in the apartment where she grew up, she was always walking other people’s dogs, and eventually baby-sitting for the owner’s kids; and she loved kids. She hadn’t always known that she would be a nurse, but it made sense. She was a caretaker.
When Denise was a child, she pretended that her dolls were patients. She had forgotten about that until she was in therapy and pulled that memory out of her cache. She also remembered going with her Aunt Sylvia, Denise’s favorite relative, who was also a nurse, to the hospital to visit the kids who had cancer. Denise had bad dreams for a month, thinking she could catch cancer, even though Aunt Sylvia assured her that it was not contagious. At first, Denise was traumatized by the ordeal, feeling like the entire experience was a dream, even though she was there, reading to and playing games with the children. But, it stuck with her, and eventually Denise decided that she would become a nurse, giving her life a greater purpose. So, even when she was tired beyond comprehension, even when she swore that she could not go to one more nursing class, or that she would throw up if she had to clean one more bedpan, she stuck it out. It was that important.
And really, what else did she have in her life? Was she to be the perpetual bridesmaid? Would she never find true love? Would she never have children of her own? Most of the time, Denise could tuck those thoughts away, deep inside of her somewhere, and deny that they were important. She just didn’t have time to wallow. Most of the time. But then, sometimes, she did.
The therapist had hinted that perhaps Denise ate to protect herself from her feelings, to keep a layer of fat around her. Denise protested, saying that she just really loved fast food, and also that it was incredibly convenient. There were more than a few times that Denise found a boyfriend who also loved to eat the way she did, and didn’t care that she was 40 pounds overweight. It was so liberating, being able to just relax.
There was nothing particularly striking about Denise. Her mousy brown hair was usually tied in a ponytail or bun, she had no outstanding features, but she was pleasant looking enough. She looked like she was a typical, Caucasian woman from a small town in the midwest, but in fact, she lived in a big city on the west coast. When she wasn’t wearing scrubs or her nursing dress, she dressed casually, in jeans or sweatpants, tee shirts and sneakers. On the rare occasion that she had to dress up, she felt uncomfortable and awkward. She rarely wore jewelry, partly because she had to take it off when she worked, and partly because she just wasn’t interested in adornments.
Denise preferred the simple things in life. A good basketball game, for instance, the only sport she was interested in, mostly because she played it in high school one year, and also because one of her favorite boyfriends, Drake, was a fan and took her to several games. Denise had a tendency to make her boyfriends’ passion her own, that is, until they were gone. Drake was gone, but her love of basketball remained. And bowling. Most of the people she knew pooh poohed bowling, telling her that it was so last century, but that was the one thing she did with her dad when he took her twice a month to stay at his place, so bowling stuck. She was never really any good at it, but when she got into a league, it gave her a group of friends, of which she had few.
Character # 3 – JOHN – eventually, I would use this character in one of my stories that is in the blog / website. The character and events are fictional, except for the parts about the pandemic – that stuff is real, as you know.
Gender – male
Profession – farmer
Education – some college, trade school
Quirks / Eccentricities – picks at scabs,
Hobbies – fly fishing, playing poker,
Passions – being outside doing his job as a farmer, his only schedule is the sun and the season – loves to tell people that
Proclivities – not political, has some preferences on certain issues, not interested in most things that don’t concern him or his family, privately watches garden variety porn – his wife has no knowledge, not a hater
Preferences – rarely reads except manuals and the occasional novel; drinks whiskey, chews tobacco, country music, tractor pulls, spectator of football
Non-physical traits : not introverted or extroverted, can get boisterous when drunk,
Physical Traits – sun-baked, premature wrinkles, strong from farming, but doesn’t exercise otherwise, wide misshapen nose, cracked lips, coffee colored eyes, tousled dark blonde hair
John cranked up the tractor, momentarily wishing that it was quieter so he could enjoy the silence out in the field; alone with himself. It was another hot, dry day and the crops were on the verge of failing. He ignored the sweltering heat, and the sweat dripping into his eyes. Dust from the arid air continually got into his lungs, so he had a perpetual cough, his voice a bit gravelly. He had learned long ago to power through this season, because it came every year, some worse than others, but it was part of the deal.
John told almost everyone he knew that he loved being a farmer because his only schedule was the sun and the season. He’d tried working 9 to 5 long ago, but farming was in his blood. His dad and his granddaddy were both farmers, and of course, being the rebellious youth that he was, he swore he would never be a farmer. But eventually he realized that he couldn’t be cooped up inside a building all day, and that he wanted to be his own boss. When he stopped denying it, he realized that he loved farming.
John wasn’t a complicated man. Actually, he was a fairly typical, midwestern man. He had no need for politics, unless something involved him or his family directly. Farming was probably the only thing he was passionate about. Everything else was just something to do. He watched football on TV, went fly fishing with his brothers, and watched some porn in the privacy of his office, unbeknownst to his wife. Not that he thought about it much, but one could say that John was pretty content with his lot in life, not much to complain about.
He drank cheap whiskey sometimes, which is when he would get rather loud and boisterous, but reserved drinking mostly between him and his buddies. He never got violent with his wife, although sometimes he did spank his children. Although he wasn’t particularly religious, he went to church on alternate Sundays with his wife and kids. John knew that a woman was the stabilizing force in a man’s life, so he didn’t question it much. Still, he didn’t see the point in going to church every Sunday when he had so little time off, and God knew where he was, so often he told his wife that he had work to do around the farm, which is when he watched football. He always knew when they were due to come home, but one time they came home early when his son got sick and projectile vomited on everyone in the church pews. Hearing the car in the driveway, he hid the chips and Pepsi under the couch, ran out the back door and grabbed some tools. Nobody ever knew the difference, so he felt justified in telling little white lies every now and then to keep the peace.
Although John was only 42, he was sunbaked and consequently, prematurely wrinkled. John might be considered an average American, He never needed to exercise because he worked all day on the farm, so his shoulders were broad and his muscles were strong, but he did have a bit of a belly from his wife’s country style cooking. He was not a handsome man, nor was he repulsive, with a broad misshapen nose, chestnut brown hair, generally matted and thinning from wearing a cap most days, and cracked, thin lips. His voice was …
That’s where the character development leaves off and the story begins. Thank you for sharing my process.