In my last post, I mentioned a run in with a man who was so abrupt and rude it almost threw me for a loop. I maintained my composure, but it got me thinking.
I tucked him and his behavior away for a potential character and I couldn’t stop thinking about him. His outburst was random, and in my opinion unprovoked. However, if I look closer his behavior was probably normal or at least justified in his opinion. So why was this so important?
Character building is not just about what happens to a main character throughout a story but how to build one before putting any of them in. I’ve mentioned before that I like to give every character, minor or major, a history. I give them a past that determines how they are now. A back-story.
Writing a random run in with a random person in a book can be tricky. If it has nothing to do with the story or the protagonist’s journey then it will be superfluous. However making it meaningful is just as tricky. If it’s blatantly obvious then the reader won’t appreciate it. If however I can make it part of the story and meaningful while keeping it totally random then all the better.
My example is loosely based off another run-in with a man this weekend at the local farmers market.
Amber checked her watch and took a deep breath. Ten minutes in line for the store to open. It took forever to figure out a birthday present for Dale and this store advertised they were getting the newest fit-bit in stock a week before the others.
The doors opened and she stepped forward. There were seven people ahead of her. She knew this because she counted them at least a hundred times out of boredom. As she got to the entrance a man in a Tommy Hilfiger jacket stepped in front of her.
“Hey.” She called out to the man. “Get in line dude.”
He turned and smirked at her with his beady brown eyes and graying stubble covered chin.
“I am in line and I’m in a hurry.” He turned his back to her without a trace of remorse or anything resembling human decency.
With fists at her side, she pressed forward. She went right to the counter and the man was just handing out the boxes to everyone as they approached. She took hers, went to the accessory wall, and found the one she was looking for. She reached out for the last blue zipper accessory so dale would have options and a hand snatched it before she could.
She looked to see Hilfiger jacket man laugh and walk away. Normally she would scream and make a scene outing the jackass for what he is.
“Karma will get him.” Amber muttered and took the dark green zipper accessory. She was buying a gift for Dale the least she could do was follow his mantra.
Karma had been more than a bitch to her so she knew damned well that you get what you put out. Pursing her lips, she headed for the checkout. There were two open and she got in line. If she was lucky, she could get to work on time. She inched forward until she was next.
“Next.” The cashier called out.
Before she could approach, Hilfiger Jacket man stepped around her and took her turn.
“Oh you smarmy little shit.” Amber uttered under her breath. “Karma, karma, karma…” She whispered as she got to the other cashier.
Luck was still on her side as she got to her desk before Valery strolled up.
“Good morning Amber, you look better today.”
“Thanks. I feel better.”
“I need to ask you a favor.” Valery smiled kindly. She approved of Amber’s new persona. She was working hard to make up for her selfish ways. It wasn’t a secret that she was pregnant. A single woman with no talk of a boyfriend, it was no wonder her stress was so high.
“Sure boss.” Amber smiled back. “What can I do?”
“There’s a man in my office for an interview. I double booked and I have a man in Clifton’s office. Can you take the one in Clifton’s?” Valery asked and held out the interview questions.
“Sure.” Amber jumped up and took the question sheets as Dale peeked around his cubicle and tried not to grin.
“Be brutal they’re applying for the new assistant position and will be working directly under you.”
Amber nodded as Valery walked away. She gave a giddy squeal as Dale gave her double thumbs up.
“You’re right about Karma Dale. I could have been a total bitch to some ass-hat this morning, but I let him be a miserable jerk and minded my business.”
“And now you’re getting an assistant. Go.” Dale waved her off and she went to Clifton’s office quickly.
Amber opened the door and walked in to sit in Clifton’s chair. “Good morning Mr…” She glanced at the sheet. “Kyle Travis.”
The man stood and held out his hand to shake. His face paled as she smiled. Mr. Hilfiger jacket recognized her from earlier.
Amber shook his hand. “Let’s get started shall we?” She sat as sweat beaded on Kyle’s forehead and he took his seat.
The original run in was a man who kept budding in front of my husband and I as we waited our turn at the market. It was very frustrating. Now I didn’t give him an interview, but he was so random and owned his rudeness that he made for great character fodder. Tucking these random run-in’s away for reference later, is key to good writing in my opinion. I take from what I experience and embellish, twist and maneuver it to fit into my story in a random and fun way.
For Amber her journey is about becoming a decent human being. What she does now that she has this man by the proverbial short hairs will determine how far she’s come. It was nice to have her not pop off and take the high road.
My advice about random run-in’s.
Write them down for future use. Inspiration comes from life and there is no better inspiration than a total jackass who gives you a great template to work with.
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