In recent weeks of perusing different WordPress sites, I have come across on a few occasions writers talking about character development and how they will sometimes watch people and make up stories for them. I do this often. I get endless enjoyment from watching people’s mannerisms and body language as they relate to others.
I remember one instance when a friend and I were sitting on a park bench at a local public rose garden. We had been resting in quiet companionship for some time, enjoying being outdoors near dusk listening to the birds sing and watching people stroll through the park. There was one family I vividly recall – at least I assumed they were a family – a mother, a father and a son who pulled up in a car across the street. They got out and entered the park gates. The boy, around eleven years old, ran ahead seeming happy to be there. The mother followed, her nose in the air enjoying the fresh fragrance of the roses in full bloom and the father lagged behind. Observing them, I leaned toward my friend and commented that the man didn’t look like he wanted to be there. Even though none of them spoke there was just something in the man’s gait, in the way he looked straight ahead and in the way he held his arms at his sides even though the pockets of his shorts gaped as if they were the natural resting place for his hands. As I watched him some more I leaned again to my friend and said, ‘I bet he’d rather be at home watching the baseball game on TV.’
I thought, what a character this man could make! Even if I were to tell his story from that moment on I could imagine that perhaps he was angry because he had a bet on the game and wanted to see his team win. Or that he loved watching baseball because it was the last thing he ever did with his own father before he died. Or that his own father would be disappointed in him, as he usually was as he grew up, because his father said he was a momma’s boy – just the same as his own son was growing up to be, having fun in a rose garden of all places! The boy should be watching the game with his dad, not asking to be driven all the way across town to look at roses with his mother!
If I were to make a character of this man whose world and thoughts I had surmised, I might not use any of these stories of his past in my tale. But knowing his past, and having a past already fitted to the reason for his present mannerisms I would know how he would react in any given situation. This, I find, is what gives a character dimension beyond the singular.
This recollection of mine has left me again to wonder just how private our thoughts and our world are. Yes, I might be (read: probably am) wrong in my imaginings of this man. But then again, in a perfect if sad conclusion to this episode, as my friend and I were walking home from the park, a car passed us with the very same family in it. The man was screaming at the top of his lungs at his family.
For Part 4 of Private Thoughts, Private World I decided to go off on a bit of a tangent due to a comment over in Ionia Martin’s blog a couple of days ago. The above is what I came up with.