Growing up, my life was like one of Bill Cosby’s old stand-up routines, thanks to my older brother. He liked to annoy me by snooping for, and reading, my diary or barging in my room without knocking.
I complained to our parents, and he was given the edict, “Stay out of your sister’s room.” So instead, he stood in the hallway outside of my room, wiggling his hand at the doorway.
“I’m not in your room,” he said, in the smug way twelve-year-olds have. He was an expert at pushing my buttons. I longed to be an only child like my best friend.
Now, you might ask, “Why didn’t you slam the door in his face?” That never occurred to my ten-year-old mind. It was far easier to watch the hand wiggling and then scream, “Mooooooooooom! He’s got his hand in my room!!!!”
When I wasn’t annoyed by my brother (and there were a few minutes during the day in which I was spared the aggravation), a three-legged German shepherd sometimes gave me (and my best friend) grief on the way to school. I don’t recall how the dog wound up missing a leg. (Um, I had nothing to do with it.) The fact that the dog wasn’t exceptionally fast, and was all bark and no bite, made no difference. We still ran from him.
The dog’s owner was a boy in my fourth grade class who lived a block away. Oddly enough, we became friends later. I won his respect when he flung a grasshopper at me, but I didn’t blink. When I showed him my collection of grasshoppers in a glass jar (I was a strange child; at least the jar’s lid had holes), he deflated somewhat. After that, he invited me to his birthday parties. And his dog only occasionally chased me, for old time’s sake, I guess.
So, why am I reminiscing now? Because I’m evaluating the characters in one of my works in progress—whether there are enough characters who push my main character’s buttons as much as my brother pushed mine. I don’t mean the antagonist; his doing so is a given. I mean family and friends. Familiarity breeds contempt, as they say. But do I show that enough? I’m also wondering if anyone approaches the level of quirkiness exhibited by the boy down the street and his three-legged dog.
They (whoever they are) also say that truth is stranger than fiction. But does it have to be? Not if I can pepper my story with characters just as vivid as the characters in my life. Now, that would give my story some much needed spice.
What part do the characters in your life play in your fictional world? How do they add richness to the terrain?
Grasshopper photo from Wikipedia.