Character Fodder By Raina Schell
We pull our characters from a myriad of situations. Sometimes we stitch them together like Frankenstein’s monster – a little from one person, something else from another until a character emerges. Other times we combine two or three people we know really well, into one. Then there’s the character that makes themselves up; you know the ones. They download into your head and there’s nothing you can do to stop them. They are born like children with fully realized personalities. They may even have built-in catch phrases and drive specific cars. Those are the fun ones, the ones that you can’t fight off the page. No matter how much you try to bury them, they keep knocking on the inside of your skull until you let them out. I have one such character but this blog is not about him because characters such as those need no help, save for our discipline in getting them onto the page. This blog is about the first type of character, the one that’s stitched together like a patchwork quilt.
The other day I was purchasing plants from a nursery. A simple task. As a woman who worked there helped load them into my car she stated an observation. “You drive a Yaris, you get better gas mileage than a Prius.” The woman next to us had just pulled up in a Prius and the woman speaking to me showed unbridled disdain for the other car.
Now there are a few ways I could have proceeded. I could have simply said, “Yes, thank you.” thus agreeing with the obviously opinionated woman and our conversation would have been over.
My father (who I relayed the conversation to later) assured me that’s what he would have done. But, among my many faults I’m contrary, I pride myself on telling the truth and I like to stir up trouble. Plus I had very recently had a long conversation with my father about my car. Yes it gets great gas mileage, there is no doubt about that. It also blows into the other lane on the freeway when a truck passes by or when there are winds above 30mph. If you watch the collision dummy footage you will find, to my dismay, that if another car plows into a Yaris at a low speed (with older models such as mine) it crumples up like a tin can.
Therefore my response to the woman was something like, “Yes but if someone hits me there’s a good chance I will not survive.”
To which she actually replied something like this: “That’s a conspiracy. They want you to believe that but those statistics are all made up. There haven’t been any car accidents in California in the last ten years. The news is full of lies about cars in order to promote fear and make people spend more money to buy more expensive cars.”
I was flabbergasted. I actually tried to argue with her by telling her I had viewed the crash test dummy footage online. She argued back telling me, and truly believing this herself, that the footage was faked. Her next statement, the one that had me walking away shaking my head was: “And if you put those negative thoughts of an accident out there, you will draw one to you.”
Now I believe in positive thinking and affirmations just as much, if not more than the next person but I am a realist. I do not think that if I jump off a tall building and believe I will land unhurt that I will indeed land, unhurt. I also believe in plenty of conspiracy theories but when I drive my car I feel like I’m driving a tin can. As for no car accidents in California… I don’t even watch the news but I personally know of three people who were involved in automobile fatalities in the Bay Area in the past few months and have personally witnessed several not fatal ones myself, quite recently.
But alas… what’s the message here? The importance of all this? That woman makes a GREAT character, or more so, part of a great character. A character who truly believes these things to be true. And I would have missed out on all of that good fodder if I had just agreed with her and moved on. The lesson/s – talk to people, listen and ask questions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Raina Schell is a vagabond. She lives where the tide takes her. The only constant in her life is her trusty laptop. She doesn’t live in a tidy little house. Her dreams aren’t surrounded by a white picket fence. She has no family but spends her free time with a black and white bunny rabbit named Fred.