Where To Find Inspiration for Characters? (Someone Else’s) Family!

Finding the perfect character for the perfect story takes time and effort. At least it does for the most part. Unless you belong to a large, diverse family. Then they come naturally. There’s just so much material to work from!

I’ve already called dibs on it with a submitted MS, but one of my stories starts out with police and rescue units outside a small town florist on what should have been a lazy Saturday morning, red and blue lights throwing unease through the air with their strobing flashes. Crime scene tape goes up, a fluttering line of yellow in the stiff sea-scented breeze. A crowd gathers as the owner stands wringing her hands and weeping on the sidewalk as emergency personnel (which in a small town means every single member of the police department–on duty or not, fire department, rescue units, ambulances, mail men, CAP leaders and owner of the town newspaper with a large camera) rush inside to the walk-in cooler where a body lies wrapped mummy-style in white sheets seeping blood. A body she discovered upon opening the store early to begin work on wedding flowers.

Serial killer? Horror story? Murder mystery?  Tensions and conjecture build in the crowd as law enforcement begins their grim work.

Five minutes later an employee arrives, looking horrified and strangely embarrassed by all the commotion. She sidles inside despite her sister clutching at her and screaming, “Don’t go in there! Don’t look at it, Dot! It’s horrible! It’s a body! Don’t look at it!” Emergency personnel soon exit the store one by one, doubled over laughing.

Welcome to my family! The “body” was a skinned deer, killed by the employee’s sons and needing a cold enough place to hang out until it could be delivered to the meat processor to be turned into roasts and deer sausage later that day.

Yes, this really happened. It was at my aunt’s florist, and her sister put the deer in the cooler after hours, her guys arriving home late after a four-hour drive from the deer lease the night before.

How could this have happened? Someone who is never on time breaks tradition and is early. My Deer Aunt, (okay, pun intended) figured she’d be there well before anyone else arrived for work to warn them of the unusual cooler contents.  Take a little literary license, and your heroine meets your hero in an unforgettable manner. Truth is definitely stranger than fiction in my family!

Children add something fresh to a story as well. One of my favorite kid characters is actually a mixture of all my grandchildren. This part is very real though; a scene at a birthday party, adults standing in small groups conversing as the kids dart among them playing. My grandson got a pair of new swim goggles with holographic lenses. Lizard eyes. Hubby suddenly stopped talking, a strange look coming over his face. I turned to see what had captured his attention.

Heading toward us, breast-stroking through imaginary depths (I guess the much taller adults were giant sea kelp or something in his mind), came my four-year old grandson. He ‘swam’ slowly from group to group, hanging out a moment then moving on. He finally arrived where we stood, having ‘swum’ quite convincingly the whole way, to stop and stare up at us, straight-faced. Disconcerting, I have to admit, when his lizard eyes flickered as he tipped his head back to take us in. Even more disconcerting was the fact his hands constantly swept back and forth at shoulder level, treading water for the length of his observation. Hubby and I both wore strange looks by the time as his little face dropped and he began breast-stroking again, disappearing among the kelp. I mean legs of other guests. I really see this kid with a future in cinematic arts.

Family is your greatest resource. Along with your powers of observation. Keep that mini-notebook handy. And if you don’t have a large family to draw from, you’re more than welcome to come hang out with mine. They’re always good for that unique tidbit that makes a story stand out. Readers will swear you’re the best “fiction” writer they know!

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9 Responses

  1. I love it. Too funny- you’re peeps are always cool. Keep ’em coming! I love Fridays with Runere.

  2. Runere…sometimes I really do wonder if we’re related. My family is my greatest inspiration. People who aren’t well…um, acquainted with my family might think we’re making our stories up, but we so aren’t. Yes, my Korean aunt really did jump on the hood of the getaway car of shoplifters at her store and yes, she did remain on the hood as it took off through Baton Rouge. And yes, my mom really did kick a mop bucket across the house and dent the refrigerator…on the complete opposite side of the house. Family is…well, the best inspiration I could ever want. I don’t have to do much other than sit around and wait for them to do their thing. LOL

    I’m with sfcatty, I LOVE Fridays with Runere!

    • We have to share DNA somewhere! Your aunt jumps on hoods of fleeing cars, and I have an aunt Juanita who interrupted her home being burgled in broad daylight!

      She was eight months pregnant and drove up to find a moving van backed into her driveway. She was quick-thinking enough to pass on by and park down the block. She watched three men tote out her TV’s, other electronics and start on the furniture.

      She waited for them to go back in, and duck-waddled to the moving van to check it out. She knew she couldn’t physically fight them so she planned on getting as much information as possible for police.

      What did she discover? They’d left the keys in the ignition! So she just crawled her very pregnant belly behind the wheel, started it up and drove it off. Straight to the police station! She even waved at the guys in the huge side view mirror while they chased her.

      Yep, we have to do a family history together and hunt for common ancestors!

  3. Runere, your stories are awesome, even more so for me since I know some of them that you speak of…now for me, I don’t have the big family, so I have to make things up as I go along from watching stragers, and everyday happenings. Sometimes that makes things hard to do when one doesn’t get out much.

    • I LOVE watching strangers! lol You can create your own scenarios, and they can’t object! That’s why I always sit where I can see the whole room or look out the windows!

      Hope you’re doing better after your fall in the French Quarter. Have been worried about you.

  4. Love the post!! Great stories told in great style. RitaVF

  5. […] If you’re a person who loves to laugh at family foibles, then you simply must read this post by one of the fabulous Southern […]

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