As I was sorting my mail at home the other day, it occurred to me that I get an inordinate amount of junk mail. Some of it is addressed to ‘occupant’, some to me personally, the rest to my business, but it amounts to a small mountain of paper in a year’s time. I started wondering who replies to all of these mailings. For instance, what kind of person would respond to an invitation for real estate flipping school, or an invitation to open a credit card at 32% interest? The best one I received in the last month was a request to donate money to a starving family in lower Manhattan. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for extending a helping hand in time of need. Heaven knows there have been hands held out for me when I needed them most. But somehow, I doubt that an organization with an address in a foreign country I’ve never heard of is collecting money for some poor family in New York City.
However, those mailings got me thinking about the people that might answer any of those ads. And once I did, I found a catalogue full of characters for my stories. Characters that I never would have imagined if not for those pieces of junk gracing my mailbox. From the real estate flipping school I came up with a guy who was a little on the shady side and used shoddy materials in a house flip that just barely passed inspection. His conduct impacted my heroine in a big way when she bought one of his houses. The credit card offer (no one refused!) became the lifeline of an out-of-work single mom who used it to buy food for her children and came to the attention of the attorney who fell for her when she ended up in court for fraud.
Now I look for characters everywhere. At the mall, where the giggling bunch of ‘tweens could be cooking up a Halloween prank that goes terribly wrong, to the father trying to corral his two-year old son who is going to run into the store clerk on her lunch break that his dad is going to fall in love with. TV commercials, email messages, my neighbors and the dog in the next block are all fodder for my imagination. I’ve become not only a people-watcher, but a paper-watcher too. And don’t even get me started on using song lyrics for plot lines in my novels. That’s a whole different subject.
Happy writing ~~~