I often hear people say that writing is a lonely art. I suppose that to some extent it is true. Only one person can hold the pen or type at the keyboard at a time, but writers are never truly alone. We carry a community of people with us wherever we go. For some of us, entire planets or solar systems are toted around like decorative baubles that bump around in our brains. They are not heavy burdens – these communities, planets, and solar systems. They are the material from which we spin our tales. If you know a writer, chances are you have or will appear in some article, novelette, or tome they have created. It is an inescapable reality. Not even strangers are immune from being collected and catalogued by the writer’s gray matter. Sometimes strangers are the most fun to collect, with their unconscious eccentricities and mannerisms. I have whiled away many an afternoon observing the people around me. It matters little whether I am at the mall, pumping gas, or grabbing coffee at the local coffee house. Each place has their gems. Most people are so intent on ignoring you, they fail to realize they have been captured. If I had a camera, I would not be quite as successful as I am. People tend to become very irate when you take their picture without permission. My camera is just as visible as one of those giant black machines with the obscenely large telephoto lens. The only difference is that my camera is comprised of my eyes, ears, and nose; connected together by the giant data collection system of my brain.
With as much as I love to collect the oddities in human nature, I am often forced to look to those closest to me for the meat of any solid character I desire to create. I can easily describe the physical appearance of the person standing in front of me at the grocery store and transform them into a troll or some other fanciful creation. I cannot, however, share that person’s soul with you and make it sound anything but contrived. I must look to those with whom I have a more intimate connection and borrow a smidgen of their essence to bring my characters to life. The warmth of an embrace; the look which says more than any words could capture; the turn of a mischievous smile and the gentle heart behind it – they are all elements which can be taken from my experiences with those people I know and love. When a tale must take a darker, more sinister turn, I still look to those closest to me once again.