I was out and about last night when a thought struck me.
But first, a tiny bit of background. A friend of mine, former house-mate even, owns a gallery. She features art from a variety of local artists, herself included. She has shows for First Friday and also for Third Friday—that is, the first and third Fridays of each month. I try to attend for First Friday and occasionally go for Third Friday as well. She generally has live music and beer, wine and snacks. Sometimes more than snacks. For her birthday, a chef friend of hers catered the affair with excellent offerings.
So, I was at her gallery last night, partaking in some very satisfying white wine sangria and listening to the performer for the night, a chanteuse playing an acoustic guitar. She was quite good. She had a guest electric guitar player with her and the two of them were playing some of her own music. I had wandered about the place, a former house converted for commercial use (my friend rents roughly half the space). Having attended her shows for a few years now, I knew some of the artists and their friends and also some of the regulars who dropped by to enjoy the art, music, and camaraderie. I had chatted with several people, got several sangria refills, and had nibbled on some snacks.
Listening to the two musicians playing, I realized something. The writing nest is comfy. We have our reference materials close at hand, our snacks, perhaps, maybe even a bottle of liquid refreshment. We have the internet. But what we do not have is direct, personal interaction. If you want to create believable characters, you need to know people. Observe, even if it is after-the-fact. Everyone has their quirks, their “life tics,” as it were. Everyone has their own way of speaking, which can vary. Someone may speak one way when talking to you, and speak in a different way entirely when speaking to someone else, or to several people at once. Having observed these things, these personality facets, you can drawn upon them later to create people who feel real. Give someone a speech quirk, or some kind of physical habit, like biting the tip of their tongue when they are thinking really hard. Or, maybe give them an unhealthy attraction to apples. Who knows? As long as it isn’t overdone, you don’t want to create a neurotic character (or maybe you do?), giving someone a quirky little trait can go a long way to making them believable.
So, get out there and have some fun. The bonus is that you get to see how real people behave.