Sunday, April 29, 2012

Writing Craft - Peopling Your World

When I started writing my first novel, (which will never get published… to many problems and nothing more than an exercise in futility). I realized I didn’t know what my villain looked like. No matter what I thought about, I could not envision this man.  I could not describe him.

Stumped, I looked through magazines for ideas, but he definitely wasn’t the fashion model type.  National Geographic didn’t help, either. 

Several weeks later I was browsing through my photo file of vacation pictures to Charleston, South Carolina.  Suddenly, I stopped and studied a crowd of passers-by. Right in the center of the screen was an angular, lanky man. His baseball cap crammed down on greasy dark hair pulled at an angle to almost hide his eyes. He had tight lips and a grim expression.  By his stance, I could see he was going some place in a hurry. My villain! I’d found my villain!

Excitedly, I jotted down the number of that picture and continued.  My pictures were not people pictures per se, but scenery. I had photographed famous buildings and streets, museums, the aquarium, the pier, and such.  But being a tourist town, everywhere I went were crowds of people. I couldn’t help but photograph them.

Several hours and some 500 pictures later, I had found at least a dozen characters needed to flesh out my novel.

I set up a profile sheet for each character and inserted their picture on it. I printed the profile sheets and set up a file folder for them. 

That way, as I worked on my manuscript, I could refer back to the hard copy and study each individual.  It certainly made things easier.

From that point forward, I carried my camera everywhere.  I began searching for interesting faces. I acted like a tourist, snapping candid shots of everything.  On the surface I might look like an annoying tourist, but in reality, I was on the hunt for unusual people doing interesting things, dull things, mundane things. I tried to include all aspects of life.

It was like an Easter Egg hunt! I couldn’t wait to get home and download them. Sometimes there would be real surprises.  Like the time I was at a flea market trying to photograph a couple of farmers leaning against a table and smoking pipes.  That day, I was in my car slowly cruising along and stopping to take pictures from the car window. 

When I looked at the picture, off to the right a large older woman with long silver hair down her back was marching towards me with an aggressive look on her face. Fortunately for me I suppose, I had moved on without even realizing she was coming.  Apparently, she didn’t take kindly to my photography.  Perhaps she’d been involved in a lawsuit or something and was really touchy about strangers. Who knows?

Interesting lady. She became the tough, savvy owner of a bar in one of my stories. 

Linda’s Note:

If you decide to use photos of people, you cannot publish them without written permission. This file is for your personal use only, and not to be shared with others. 

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