This week I’ve realized my book characters are too bland and ordinary. Real life sure isn’t. It’s full of all sorts of interesting and dramatic characters.
* A second incident happened today as I walked through the parking lot to a grocery store. As I passed a car, a little dog inside started barking at me. Ever notice that the smaller the dog is, the quicker and higher pitched the yip, accompanied with lots of bouncing and jumping? (“See how tall I am? And how dare you approach my territory! Yap!”) Anyway, his yipping and jumping set off the car alarm.
I find it amusing how car alarms vary. Our own car alarm is rather wimpy. I set it off on purpose once. I had to get close to it to hear. It was a pitiful, “Oh, pooh. Oh, ow. Oh, and, yeah: help. But only if you wanna.” On the contrary, Mr. Yippy’s car alarm could be heard two blocks away. (“Yeah, you better keep walking, you human. Yip!”)
* And then there are the peculiar characters, like the Cedar Rapids, IA, dog owner whose loose dog bites neighborhood kids in their own yards and terrifies postal workers so there is no mail delivery in the neighborhood until the dog-owner-issue is resolved. There are many wonderful dog stories, but who really wants to read about irresponsible owners? Yuck.
* Another peculiar character involved my friend Freda.
The snow had finally melted after a long, long winter. Neighbor Qu, across the street from my friend Freda, was returning from a month in sunnier climes. Freda wanted her part of yard facing his driveway and around Qu’s mailbox (on her property) to be cleared of leaves and look welcoming. For two hours she used a pronged rake to scrape out the matted-to-the-ground leaves. She put them in a 12′ width line along border of Neighbor Yp’s wooden lot, but still on her property according to the boundary stakes still in the woods from after the May 2011 storm. She anticipated the leaves would compost quickly in the coming rain, and also deter the woods from their annual creep into her yard.
As she raked, Neighbor Yp walked past. She hadn’t seen him all winter except when he drove past. She said hi. He didn’t respond. Not unusual. For the past five years, he’s lived on the other side of the empty lot, which is covered with brush and chopped and downed trees. For in May of 2011, a fast-moving storm decimated Freda’s neighborhood. Besides taking lives and crushing houses, the storm uprooted about 90% of the trees in the forested lot, including four trees upon the root balls which Freda’s fence then sat.
That same afternoon of raking, Neighbor Qu returned, relaxed and tan. Freda walked over to welcome them home and return their house keys. When she turned to go home she noticed her raked leaves along the border were now scattered 10′ into her yard, assumedly from a leaf blower.
Freda re-raked the leaves, moving them more into her property, and put a black garden cloth over them so the now dried leaves wouldn’t blow onto someone else’s property and so they’d easier decompose. Around the stake in the woods, two feet away from Freda’s leaves, she tied an orange string. Two hours later, the leaves were gone and the garden cloth and marker tossed into Freda’s yard.
How long could this silly property line business go on? If he had a concern while she was raking, why hadn’t he talked to her when he walked by?
Seeing Yp in his garage, Freda decided to ask him what was going on. She never got the chance. Yp, constantly pacing and never making eye-contact, yelled, swore, and waved a 1960′s property map at her, unrolling it and rolling it repeatedly. Freda backed away a few paces, uncertain of what he was saying or what he would do next. She’d been witness to many angry family outbursts from Yp.
Yp accused Freda of not only moving the boundary stakes, but of tossing cement over the fence and of building a fence on his property. He waved the map at her again. The fence had been there decades before Freda moved in. Y threatened to tear down the fence, along with more swearing.
Shaking from the encounter, and afraid to say anything which might set Y off any more than he already was, and I sure don’t blame her, Freda left. Yp was fuming over twelve inches of leaves on the other side of his empty lot when his whole lot was a mess.
Freda vowed she’d go near the borderland as little as possible. She told me she had no problem with letting him have the twelve inches, the two feet, or even more if he wanted it. But more worrying was that she hadn’t moved any stakes, and she certainly didn’t toss any cement over the fence. Falsely accused!
The latter comment confused my friend. Yp assured her three years ago that he would take care of his uprooteed trees so Freda could have her backyard back. Five months after the storm, Freda finally contacted a fencing repair company. So at first Freda thought perhaps YP meant that the fence-repair people dumped the cement into the 6′ hole caused by an uprooted tree. They’d replaced about 10′ of fence, straightened the rest, and replaced a corner post. But, and I agreed with her, 1) if the fence people tossed the cement into the empty lot, a post would have to be attached to the cement, and 2) they were a reputable company and would never do such a thing.
Then Freda recalled seeing huge concrete chunks in the lot after the storm took down the trees. She took me to her backyard, keeping an eye out for Yp. The concrete lay about ten feet over the fenceline. I estimated that they weigh about 200-300 pounds.
I turned and stared warily at my friend. All I have to say is that from now on I’m going to have to be very careful around Miss Freda. If she did do what Yp accused her of, someone who can lift and toss that much weight, puts Scottish tree throwers to shame.
So there you have it: the kind, the funny, and the peculiar characters. They’re around us ever day. What about in your writing? Are your own characters as interesting?
Keep on writing!