Strange Things Happen When You Write in the Barnes & Nobel Parking Lot

Posted by Jess
{A post script of Breathing Life into a Character}

While I was writing in the parking lot, a car pulled in two spaces away and an elderly gentleman got out. I glanced at him and then continued writing. I was using my phone because Kits didn't give me enough time to grab my notebook from the trunk. (Kits is the main character in my book, for those of you just tuning in.) 

"Excuse me." The man walks up to my door, which is open. I tense, but relax when I realize he's not going to attack me.
"You wouldn't happen to be a private investigator would you?" He asks.
I laugh loudly. "No, I'm not."
He nods, I smile and then he walks away.

I watched with bewilderment as he strolled into the bookstore. Why would he think that? I thought to myself. Maybe because I was sitting in my hot car with the door and windows open, typing on my phone. He didn't know I was writing a scene. Or perhaps it's because I was wearing all black. To me it was just a pair of yoga pants and a tank top, but to him I must've looked like a spy. And then I wondered: Why was he curious? Did he think he was being followed? Or perhaps he was looking to hire one. I was so curious that I almost forgot about Kits. I tried to continue writing, but then I wondered what the man would've done had I said yes. The joke did occurr to me. Would he have driven away? Shot me? He looked like a nice grandpa but maybe he's the leader of a gang. Ghouls and Gramps, I named it. I looked at his car, it was average, but I noticed that the passenger seat was almost fully reclined, the way they are in rap videos. Who was sitting in that seat? Curiosity was getting the best of me.

Kits was still trying to tell me her story, but I couldn't stop thinking about this man. So I apologized to my main character and asked her if we could go inside. Obviously she said yes.

When I entered the store I ordered a drink and found a table in the cafe. I spotted the man sitting in a booth behind me (That was completely unintentional) He was reading by himself. I sat down and tried to write, but there were too many distractions-- Too many people talking, too loud of music, and too much urge to go ask that man why he thought I was an investigator.

I took a sip of my drink and spilled some on my arm. Of course I didn't have any napkins. The guy spotted me when I reached the condiment table, but it was only a glance. I wanted to talk to him, but I was unsure of how he would react. If he is the leader of Ghouls and Gramps, then I don't want him slitting my tires thinking he needs a getaway. So I went back to my table and tried to write. Moments later the guy got up and went to the magazine section. He stood in one spot staring at the same magazine cover on the shelf for several minutes. Now he must really think that I'm following him. I laughed and then went back to my car to write. I still had the urge to ask him his story, but one: he probably wouldn't have told me because he thought I was stalking him, and two: it was Kits' time to talk. And I was completely ignoring her, which isn't good behavior if you're trying to become friends with your characters.

Long after I'd been writing in my car again, the old man came out. He silently got in his car, and drove away. I glanced at his license plate, it looked normal. And then I realized what I was doing. I wouldn't have even given him another thought had he not asked me that question. It was as if he'd sparked the private investigator hiding inside me because that is exactly what I felt like once the words were spoken. I found myself wondering, could I be one? I don't think I'm that slick, but apparently this guy does. Then I realized that as writers, we are kind of private investigators. Knowingly, or unknowingly we watch people in their everyday lives and try to figure them out-- their stories, their motives, their desires, not to go back and tell a spouse or an enemy, but to breathe real life into our characters and stories.

Anyways, if I learned anything from this day, it's that hanging out with my characters is fun!

Until next time,

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