Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Odd Jobs and Character Development

I was thinking today about all the various ways writers develop. not just through classes on composition and structure, but through real life experiences. I have been asked several times about my characters, whether or not they are based on real people, and I am always happy answer that yes, I know each and every one of my characters very well. Most of the time, they are amalgams of several people I've met through the years. Some are hyper versions of real people I know or have read about, enhancing certain characteristics necessary for the story.

But just exactly how did I meet these people? Well, the truth is I haven't always been a writer, or a therapist for that matter. I actually spent a lot of time working for a living, doing an odd assortment of jobs that exposed me to "the human condition", (a fancy term for saying I have kept my eyes open during my working life). And as a direct result, I have the framework for most all of the characters I use in my stories. The following are the jobs I consider my source material:
- Hanging aluminum siding with my Dad and uncle
- Teaching guitar lessons
- Page at the local library
- Babysitter (and that was while I was in college)
- Warehouseman and line stocker at an aerosol plant that made breath spray and perfume
- Warehouseman in a liquor warehouse (still have my Teamsters card)
- Limo driver (during a period of intense character development)
- Bouncer at a campus bar
- Ergonomics and Safety Consultant

I left a few things out, like collecting garbage and mowing lawns as part of the maintenance crew in college, setting up and breaking down for YMCA bingo every Sunday night for 6 months, and other glamorous positions. My point is we all have a treaure chest of characters in our past, and all of them have a story to be told, and are dying to be part of yours. So now that I've shared my odd jobs, I'd love to hear about some of yours...


Rosalie Skinner said...

Makes sense that your characters come to life so well in your novels Ron. Speaking of which... when is the next one due out?

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

I love this, Ron! Here's my list:

1)Blueberry picker
2)Farm stand staff
3)Mushroom picker (complete with light on headlamp with battery on my belt!)
4)K-Mart sign painter
5)Linen factory worker (ironing machine!)
6) Restroom cleaner for a cleaning company (yuk is right!)
6)Circuit board assembler
7)Circuit board driller
8)Jr. Engineer at ocean engineering company
9)Senior Engineer for the rest of my current life, LOL.

I'm sure there were more terribly exotic jobs I'm forgetting, but I really did have some great exposure to real life and tons of personalities. It's what makes us, "us," isn't it!

Ron Adams said...

Thanks, Rosalie, always great to hear from you! LAKE EFFECT has been re-released from Charles River Press and is available in paperback form 4/2/2012. CROSSING MIDNIGHT is still in progress, and I hope to have it ready by the end of 2012.

Aaron, your list is as challenging as mine for sure...hard way to make an easy living, isn't it?!

Kim Smith said...

Yup. Been many things as well, including hamburger flipper, telephone solicitor, and document scanner. Makes me think of that old saying, you've come a long way, baby.