Truth has always been stranger than fiction.
I am known for creating my books around characters. I am blessed many readers have written to me, thanking me for creating characters they can not only fall in love with, and root for, but characters they can completely relate to.
For some people, plot is king. For others, description or gorgeous literary language make them sigh in pleasure.
For me, characters make or break a book.
Recently I made a trip to Saratoga Springs with a girlfriend of mine. I’m obsessed with the Saratoga Race track (check out one of my scenes in my book Searching for Beautiful!) so we decided to spend a girls weekend away without the kids and do some shopping, drinking and eating after the track.
The perfect trifecta.
Our hotel hosted an evening cocktail hour, so we were chatting up a very nice man at the bar who told us he rents a house in Saratoga for the month with his buddies. He was a retired fireman, with a fabulous Italian accent, great sense of humor, and tons of warmth. When we asked him for a suggestion to eat, he told us to go to this one restaurant that was top notch, but almost impossible to get into. He happened to know the hostess and wait staff though, so after some dialogue, he grabbed his phone and called the restaurant, snagging us reservations for that night. His friends then came to the bar, where hugs were dispersed, and we left feeling light hearted and as if we had made new friends.
Dinner was superb. Rooftop bar, gourmet food, and specialized cocktails. After dinner, we headed to a pub where we ended up ordering rounds of IPAs and playing some rowdy games of BINGO. We struck up a conversation with a man sitting next to us, and at one point, we both were waiting for I30 to be called to score Bingo. He politely told me he’d give me the win.
I told him I’d won already, and insisted he take the round.
The dealer called out I30. The man insisted on buying us drinks to thank us. We began chatting, and told him about our experience at dinner that night and the stranger who got us reservations.
The man froze. “Is his name Danny?” the man asked.
We froze. “Umm, yeah. Do you know him?” I asked.
The man answered, “Hell, yeah! He’s one of my best friends and I’m renting a house with him!”
Afterward, he called up Danny to tell him we loved the restaurant. He also told Danny we’d given him a BINGO and it made his night.
Even better? These are the details that make up good characters. The stranger who becomes a friend at a local bar. The people next to you betting at the track. The waitress at dinner. The bartender at the hotel. The cab driver taking you to the airport.
Stop and look around. It’s time to really be in this life we lead, and involve ourselves in richer experiences with the people around us. This is what brings us to write vivid, detailed, emotional stories. You cannot get this type of experience from a computer, or Facebook, or email.
You need to get out in the world and begin engaging.
That weekend fueled my creative fire. Besides enjoying quality time with my girlfriend, I met new people and got out of my comfort zone. I’m really happiest as a hermit, but find whenever I stretch my boundaries and become open to the world, amazing things happen.
I meet amazing people. And they all help me write a better story because I can relate to the every day character.
Talk to one stranger today and be open to the experience.
Then get back to writing.