I was thinking today about all the various ways writers develop. not just through classes on composition and structure, but through real life experiences. I have been asked several times about my characters, whether or not they are based on real people, and I am always happy answer that yes, I know each and every one of my characters very well. Most of the time, they are amalgams of several people I've met through the years. Some are hyper versions of real people I know or have read about, enhancing certain characteristics necessary for the story.
But just exactly how did I meet these people? Well, the truth is I haven't always been a writer, or a therapist for that matter. I actually spent a lot of time working for a living, doing an odd assortment of jobs that exposed me to "the human condition", (a fancy term for saying I have kept my eyes open during my working life). And as a direct result, I have the framework for most all of the characters I use in my stories. The following are the jobs I consider my source material:
- Hanging aluminum siding with my Dad and uncle
- Teaching guitar lessons
- Page at the local library
- Babysitter (and that was while I was in college)
- Warehouseman and line stocker at an aerosol plant that made breath spray and perfume
- Warehouseman in a liquor warehouse (still have my Teamsters card)
- Limo driver (during a period of intense character development)
- Bouncer at a campus bar
- Ergonomics and Safety Consultant
I left a few things out, like collecting garbage and mowing lawns as part of the maintenance crew in college, setting up and breaking down for YMCA bingo every Sunday night for 6 months, and other glamorous positions. My point is we all have a treaure chest of characters in our past, and all of them have a story to be told, and are dying to be part of yours. So now that I've shared my odd jobs, I'd love to hear about some of yours...