Monday, September 12, 2011

Finding A Character

Good Morning Everyone. If you were here on Friday, you read the beginning of a story I "found" at the beach. Today I would like to show you just exactly HOW I found it. And if you haven't read it yet, (and if you want, no pressure) go now and take a gander. I'll wait.

Okay. Are you back? Good.

Now, most of you who have been reading me for awhile know that I call my daughter, The Monster Child. What you may not know about my Darling Monster is that she can make friends with anyone. Including inanimate objects.

On vacation at the beach, she made friends with any child under 4 feet tall. The second week we were there, she made friends with one child in particular, Sophie.

Sophie was beautiful, with huge blue eyes, very petite, and with a gor-ge-ous man, (who wore no wedding ring) as her companion. I watched carefully as Monster and she built a sand castle, and then played in the water. I warned Monster about going out too far in the surf because Sophie was smaller than her. The man, her dad, watched them, and me, all morning. Under the guise of my sunglasses, cowboy hat, and long sleeved shirt, I watched him right back.

(The first week there I gave my body to the Sun Gods. I ulitmately paid for that in sun poisoning. Even with SPF 85.)

That first day with Sophie, I waited for "the wife" to appear. She did not. The second day, Gorgeous Man and Sophie appeared with friends, several other children, and assorted adults. I assumed that one of these friends was G-man's brother (I mean, you could tell, they looked alike). However, no woman who would seem to be his wife or any kind of significant other. Gorgeous Man engaged with them, but sat to the side, watching Sophie and my Monster play. I went down to the kids on several occasions but he did not. However, I knew he watched me.

For the remainder of the week, while our kids played together, we played "undercover staring". You know, he looked my way, I looked away, I looked his way, he looked away. I felt like I was in my 20's again. Like I said, he was GOR-GE-OUS. Tall, 50-ish, sooo tan, Marine type haircut, and Paul Newman eyes. Very, may I repeat, very drool worthy.

On our next to last day at the beach, my mother came down and sat under the umbrella with me. However, she was blocking my view of Gorgeous Man so I moved my chair and faced away from the water and more toward the sand. Of course, she made a point to ask why I wasn't watching the Monster. So I nodded to Gorgeous Man and said, "I have something else I want to stare at for awhile."

Oh. My. God. You should have heard the lecture I got. I won't bore you with the haranguing, but even at almost fifty years old, why can mothers make you feel like you're ten years old again. Suffice it to say, she thought I was out of my mind for wasting my time staring at a man I would never meet.

I tried to explain to her the point wasn't in meeting him, the point was in memorizing him. To which she stared at me open-mouthed like I had sprung horns and breathed fire.

I'm a romance writer. I write about men and women and situations and circumstances that relate to love, the finding it, the losing it and everything in between. I also don't get out much back home, so seeing a real honest to God, bona fide hunk-and-a-half on the beach wearing nothing but a pair of orange surf shorts... well, yeah, I'm gonna stare at him. Especially as he was my age. (If he'd been 30, I'd have passed. I'm not a Cougar.)

That night, somehow the topic of G-man came up at dinner and Mary, (my mother's friend with whom we stayed) asked me if I'd introduced myself. I said no. She asked why not. And I said, "I don't want to meet him. I just want to look at him." Again, why not. To which I replied, "Because if I speak to him and he's a toad, then everything I've thought about him all week will be for naught. I've built him up to be something he's probably not and meeting him would only crush the fantasy."

The next day on the beach, (our last day on the beach) I had several opportunities to actually speak with Gorgeous Man. Several opportunities, my friends. And I did not take one of them.

Now, back home, I wonder if I did the right thing. I think I missed an opportunity, an important opportunity for my writing. But then again, did I?

In not speaking to him, I had a character already in my mind. I made up a whole backstory about who he was, why he was without wife, his background, his job, his compulsion for packing every single thing he might need for a few hours on the beach, even his family. Did I do him justice as a "character"? I don't know. Only you can be the judge of that.

Tell me -- If you had found an opportunity like that, would you have taken the time to speak to him? Or would you, like me, just stare and make stuff up? Do you take your characters from whole cloth, or do you piece them together to make them fit?

32 comments:

Laura Pauling said...

Esp. with your children playing together, I say def. talk to him. I can't say what I would or wouldn't have done, totally depends on so many factors. But I'm glad you had fun watching!

Em-Musing said...

I'm waaaay too shy to approach a man and strike up a conversation. I probably would had just stared too. At least your eyes had fun. And great that you got a character for your stories. And eh hem, missed an opportunity for your "writing"? Next time...don't miss the opportunity. Go for it!

jabblog said...

If I were in the same situation as you I would not have spoken to him - he might have had a squeaky voice and that would spoil the illusion and the homespun character and another great story would bite the dust.

Anne Gallagher said...

Laura -- Yeah, that was the one defining moment I should have spoken to him, when the girls first started playing together, but I am shy by nature. Definately a missed opportunity.

Em -- I think I didn't do too badly considering I got that fabulous character. And there will never be another opportunity like that one. Not for a very long time.

jabblog -- LOL! That's exactly right. High and squeaky or he would have sounded like a Soprano or something.

Francine Howarth said...

Hi,

Ha ha, you could have made sure Monster Child exchanged addresses. You know, good for kids to keep in touch!!! It's all in the size of the Adam's Apple = how deep the voice. ;) A story in there methinks!

best
F

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

So is that the reason I had so few dates when I was younger? The women just wanted to stare and that was it?
Just kidding - no one was looking at me.

Anne Gallagher said...

Francine -- Haha! The story's been started, I posted it Friday.

Alex -- Hey, I'd take that as a compliment. When they stare it means they're interested but shy. Maybe you intimidated them.

Linda G. said...

Hmmm. Tough call. I think I'd be tempted to do just as you did -- just sit back and enjoy the fantasy. :)

jbchicoine said...

If I had been in your position, I would have done the same thing--if I were single, that is...

As far as characters go, one of my favorite persons to dissect and re-invent is my husband. He is so very interesting...but he kinda takes issue with me killing 'him' off on occasion, lol!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I would have, but then again, I agree with your reasoning not to. Why kill the fantasy?

Love the part about your mom lecturing you. Too funny!

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

I so understand - the imagination is better and what might he have turned out like if you'd actually spoken to him?

Creepy Query Girl said...

:) LOL. If I was single- than to hell with a character- I'd toootally speak with him:)

Anne Gallagher said...

Linda -- Oh let me tell you about the fantasy... oh wait, maybe not.

Bridget -- Your husband sounds like a fabulous "character". I love the portrait you did of him.

Stina -- You should have HEARD the lecture. You might have thought I was 16 again!

Pat -- That's what I was totally afraid of...what would he really have been like. I was so afraid he would me a macho arrogant jerk it would have blown my character right out of the water. And then where would I be? With a totally different story I think. Or maybe none at all.

Katie -- Let me tell you, if I was single without the Monster, I might have gotten up the cajoles to talk to him. Maybe. Big maybe.

Rula Sinara said...

I'd probably have done the same, LOL. Fantasy can be so much better...Now, if he'd said the first word...

Anne Gallagher said...

Rula -- If he had said the first word, well, then anything is possible.

Bish Denham said...

I probably would have talked to him. My imagination would not have been tarnished if he turned out to be...you know, human.

Mothers...they can never seem to realize when their kids are grown up adults.

Liza said...

I guess we just have to make sure that we are not avoiding real life via the guise of our writer-ly intentions. However, if your motivation at the time was to write the story, then what a great way to develop a character. No matter how wonderful, or not, if you met him, he would not have been the person you were constructing the story around.

I tend use bits and pieces of people I've met or admired (or not) to formulate my characters...

Anne, if you get a chance, check my blog today. There is something there for you. It is NOT a prize. It's more like...a gift.

Bossy Betty said...

I think I would have talked to him. Who knows what else you would have gleaned?

Anne Gallagher said...

Bish -- Perhaps that's why I didn't talk to him. I didn't want him human, I wanted him as "character". Interesting concept though.

Liza -- Avoiding real life. Yup, that's me. How can you tell? And thanks so much for the "gift". I've never received a sweeter one.

Betty -- Truth to tell, I was afraid my lust would show if I talked to him. It's been a long time since I talked to a handsome man.

Elle Strauss said...

That's a great story and a loaded question! I think you did just the right thing for you. You got what you wanted and what you needed.

Hannah Kincade said...

I'm pretty sure I would've just stared at him as well. I have a tendency to develop verbal diarrhea when around a good-looking man. (Needless to say, the BF knows a lot of random information about me and I'm surprised he can still tolerate me.) So I would've kept quiet and not said anything but *drool*.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Wow, he sounds dreamy! I probably would have enjoyed staring for a few days, enjoy the game, then would have broke down and talked to him.

This all reminds me of a scene in Goodwill Hunting, where Will doesn't want to call the girl to go out on a second date even though she's beautiful and they had a great time together. So Robin williams character doesn't understand this and questions him on it.
Will says, "The girl is perfect right now. Why would I want to ruin it?"

Nicki Elson said...

Aw, he probably missed you the next day at the beach. :( But I know what you mean with the not talking to them thing. In college I had the hugest crush on my image of this one guy---tall, good-looking, smart, star football player. One semester we had accounting together, he sat right in front of me, and I had not the slightest urge to speak to him and risk all my perceptions crashing down. Otherwise who knows how Big D would've turned out? hehe

Anne Gallagher said...

Elle -- Kind of like sex in a non-physical way. LOL.

Hannah -- *verbal diarrhea* yeah, that sounds like what I would have done too.

Jennifer -- EXACTLY! He was perfect for those few days, why ruin it.

Nicki -- LOL, I doubt he even noticed my absence. The only way I suppose I could ever find out would be to go there again next year and hope he vacations those same two weeks. HAH! As if.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

If I were in your same position, I would've talked to him. I talk to EVERYBODY. Even if he had some grievous faults that totally ruined your imagined characterization of him, the faults would've made for an even more interesting and believable character.

Anne Spollen said...

I've made friends with people while waiting on bank lines, so yeah, I would have talked to him. Otherwise, I would always wondered what it would have been like to have spoken to him. Then again, I could just use this scene in a story and make him up just how I like him....

Anne Gallagher said...

Susan -- I think "Jack's" faults will appear shortly. No one is perfect.

Anne -- If it wasn't for the intimadation factor I probably would have spoken to him. There were also mitigating circumstances I didn't explain that had to do with my reluctance as well.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

i'd like to think i would've spoken with him, in an extrovert anyway, but who knows. It would all depend on the situation and my mood

Donna Hole said...

"Because if I speak to him and he's a toad, then everything I've thought about him all week will be for naught."

Exactly. I piece my characters together to fit too. I would have enjoyed the look see time. I'm a cynic, not a romantic though.

Which is why I also noticed that if you had ample opportunity to speak to him, he had the same opportunities to strike a conversation with you also. Neither of you went out of your way . .

But hey, you had a beautiful memory, a great fantasy, and the unique opportunity to create a perfect character. Enjoy the fantasy Anne - every single night :)

.......dhole

Anne Gallagher said...

Sarah -- I was also with my daughter and my mother most of the time, so conversation was limited.

Donna -- I think I could be a cynical romantic. You're right, as much as I had the opportunity to speak to him, he had the same to speak to me. And he didn't. So.

ali cross said...

I think in this situation I wouldn't have been able to be ali-the-writer, but instead would have gone with ali-the-person/woman. I would have more interested in speaking to him, getting to know him, rather than have him be a character of my making.

Though, I do see how talking to him could have ruined his value to you as a character. I would have preferred his value to me as a man. ;)

Tara said...

Am I supposed to pretend I'm not married? Cause if that's the case I would have...nevermind what I woulda done. It's not for the blogs. I get why you didn't. ;-)