Friday, August 26, 2016

Everyone Has A Story

We moved to a senior living community seven months ago. We eat at the restaurant here a couple times each week. If there is an empty place at a table, anyone can join those already there. It's a good way to get to know the other people living here.

Life stories get shared across the table that is covered with a white linen cloth and contrasting color linen napkins. A small vase of flowers sits in the center of each table. It's quite nice but even better are the people who sit at our table. Ken and I have heard some of the most fascinating life stories from the people who eat with us.

One woman seldom talks; she says she'd rather listen to others. But one evening, she told us about being a Navy nurse during WWII. She met her husband on a ship in the Pacific theater during that period of time. Anyone seeing her in a grocery store checkout line would be so surprised at the life-changing experience she had during wartime. No doubt in my mind that she could have written a book if she'd wanted to.

Another woman was married to a funeral director for many years. She has a great wit and can tell a story so that everyone stops eating to give their full attention to her. She says she wishes she could write a book about some of the experiences she and her husband had in the funeral business but being in her nineties now keeps her from doing so.

When you pass people on the street, you make a mental assessment of them. You know what they look like physically, how they are dressed, whether they made eye contact or not. But you don't know their story. Pass ten people in one block of walking and you've moved by ten life stories, ten people who have gone through something that changed them. It might be huge or minuscule but they all do have a story.

To help you create a fictional character, make a point of talking to the people you meet. Learn about their background. Ask about the work experiences they had. Or what happened while they raised children. Talk to people and ask questions. Many times, they'll answer and keep on talking. All the things you learn can be filed away to use when you write.

I've found that real people are far more fascinating than those we make up in a story we write but they can also help us create fictional characters.

Years ago, I started posting many of my stories on a website called Our Echo. At the top of the page, it says Everyone has a story. What's yours? Maybe your own life story will give you material to create a fictional character. It's certain that many fictional characters have been based on a real person, or a combination of people.

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