Pine Mountain: Mimi Slater

Mimi Slater is one of the primary characters in a prospective novel called Pine Mountain. Here’s her character backstory.

Maria Robinson was the first of ten children born in 1950 to a poor family in the foothills of the Appalachians in a town called Pine Mountain. Her father was known for being a deacon in the local Baptist church, but to Maria he was a drunkard and an abuser, and that mattered more than any religious facade he built around his family. As her siblings proliferated, she found herself duty-bound to help her overwhelmed mother care for the new babies that arrived every other year without fail.

It was from the mouth of one of those babies that survived, her brother Bernard, the fourth and final brother, that she obtained the nickname Mimi. He had great difficulty saying her given name and settled on Mimi, which the whole family adopted until it eventually became the only name she knew. Everything in her life revolved around caring for her siblings because her mother needed the help and her father demanded it. Nothing was hers, not even her room, which she shared with four of her sisters.

Hers was a life of drudgery early on. Although she went to school once she was old enough, even that was not an escape from the family life that weighed on her. She often missed school to work at home, so much so that she fell behind and began to dread going to school and feeling so lost. At least at home, she knew what she had to do. She struggled to read and even basic math was a challenge for her. Her frustration was such that she didn’t resist when her father kept her at home for good after the eighth grade, which she was destined to repeat again anyway.

After she turned 15, she found her escape when she met John Slater, a man ten years her senior, who worked with her father at the local textile mill. Like Mimi, he had dropped out of school, but unlike her, he was not bound to a life at home. He courted her secretly and promised her a much better life than what she had. A few months into their courtship, she found herself pregnant. Her father, fearful of losing his most reliable worker among his brood, beat her senseless and forced her to marry John. He didn’t like John, but her pregnancy forced him to concede to their marriage to maintain the standing of the family name in the community.

Not long after they were married and moved into a house near her parents, Mimi lost the baby when complications emerged during the pregnancy. John blamed her for the loss of what he was sure was his first son. Further efforts to have children proved futile and Mimi realized that the passion she had briefly experienced in their courtship had faded and been replaced by a simmering contempt, but they stayed married because Mimi didn’t know what else she could do. Instead, she continued to help her mother with her siblings and take care of John when he returned home from work.

Eight years after that first pregnancy had ended, Mimi was pregnant again, and she had her first child, a son, whom John named Eric after his uncle whom had been like a father to him. In quick succession, she had a girl that John named Randi (he had wanted another son) and a boy named Mark whom John named after another favorite uncle of his.

Like her father, John was abusive. He didn’t strike her often, but a day didn’t go by without her feeling inadequate in his eyes in some way. She turned a blind eye to his alcoholism. She never had the courage to confront him or leave him. Instead, she sat stoically by his side until his death before his fifty-third birthday.

Her children should have been her salvation, an outlet to a better perspective on life, but it didn’t quite turn out that way. They outgrew her in ways she never imagined or completely understood. Her sons distanced themselves from her, and her daughter rebelled. Just as they were coming of age, John died, and all hell broke loose. Eric left for college and never returned. Randi became pregnant, but she didn’t know who the father was and instead moved in with another man who had lived down the street from them. Mark drifted away disappearing for long periods of time after he graduated high school before he finally moved out for good in his early twenties.

By her fiftieth birthday, Mimi found herself alone in the dilapidated old house she had lived in since she married John. Her parents were long-deceased and her numerous siblings had left town moving further into the Appalachians or, in some cases, into the cities and towns at the foothills of the venerable mountains. Her job at the local grocery store kept her afloat, but just barely.

Randi lived in Pine Mountain and would visit her often with her young daughter in tow. Although Mimi loved her granddaughter, the little girl was petulant and prone to manic temper tantrums that left Mimi shaking with anxiety. Mark would go weeks without calling or visiting her, but he lived in the city and had a busy life of his own. Eric had moved away for college and moved to New York City where he had a big job and a gorgeous wife and a young son, neither of whom had Mimi met. She hadn’t spoken to Eric in years, but to be truthful, she hadn’t made an effort to do so. He hadn’t left home under the best of circumstances. She had resigned herself to losing her oldest child forever until he knocked on her door one day.

Episode 1: Donna Quixote

The refrigerator purred to life startling Donna Scott as she padded across the cheap linoleum floor in her kitchen. She took a deep breath to settle her frayed nerves and placed her hand above her heart feeling for anything that seemed abnormal. Her heart thumped and stuttered and her chest tightened. This was it. The end she feared had come and caught her off guard in the late morning in her kitchen. She grabbed the edge of the counter to steady herself, to wait for the inevitable wilting to floor. Her knees wobbled and her breath hitched.

The kitchen brightened in her widened eyes. Her pulse shot fireworks in her field of vision, which blurred at the periphery. She glanced at her blood pressure cup folded upon itself on the counter next to the row of medicines, vitamins, and assorted herbal remedies she had yet to consume for the day. None of it had helped. Nothing she had done had really mattered in the end, and this was the end.

The refrigerator clicked off returning the room, the whole floor of her tiny house, to the silence she craved. Her heart still thumped wildly in her chest, but she felt a surge of meek determination that pushed her across the small kitchen to the counter near her neat line of vials. She grabbed a bottle and shook two pills into her palm. She popped them in her mouth and swallowed. She did the same for each bottle in the line, pausing briefly to ensure she had swallowed each pill.

After she had finished taking all of her medications and supplements, she feared that some of them had become lodged in her throat. Suddenly, she couldn’t swallow. This was it. She would die from a clogged esophagus. She hadn’t considered that possibility. She stumbled to the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of water. She checked the date she had written on its side before she opened it and drank half the contents. She thought the water had dislodged the blockage in her throat, but she wasn’t sure. She considered calling the doctor or perhaps 9-1-1, but then she relented as the air hissed from her inflated fear.

Satisfied that she wasn’t under immediate threat, Donna grabbed the blood pressure cup from the counter and snaked her arm through the loop. She pulled it snug around her bicep and pushed the button on its electronic panel. It inflated and cramped her arm before it slowly deflated. She could feel her pulse cranking in her arm. The tiny screen on the panel blinked and beeped until it displayed 117/78. She swallowed hard as she wrote the reading onto her notepad she kept on her counter. She compared the current reading to the four readings she took yesterday, and her worst fears had come to fruition. Her blood pressure was dropping. Her high blood pressure medication had overcompensated and forced her into a state of hypotension. She’d have to call her doctor as soon as possible.

Before she could do that, she needed to shower or at least clean up. She couldn’t remember the last time she had showered. She tugged the sleeve of her night gown and inhaled. The sour smell of sweat and body odor greeted her. She needed to sit down because the gush of thoughts in her mind made her dizzy. She shuffled over to the old recliner near the edge of her living room and dropped herself onto its tired cushions. She could feel the grit of food crumbs at her seat beneath her thin night gown. She caught a whiff of something she couldn’t name, something tangy and sweet but unpleasant nonetheless. She pushed back into the recliner and closed her eyes.

A beam of sunlight shot across the room from an opening in the tightly closed blinds. Dust particles floated through the beam as if someone had beaten a path down a dusty road. Donna watched the dust float in the sunlight as her eyes adjusted to the brightness. She had fallen asleep in the recliner and most of her day had passed her by. The sun was already in her backyard, which faced the western sky.

She kicked at the footrest trying to push it down, but her weak legs couldn’t move it. She pushed herself up with her arms and leaned all of her weight onto the footrest until it folded beneath her. She sat up and her neck and back ached. A pain shot through her arm as she reached up to massage her stiff neck. She needed to get an x-ray of her neck and spine. She had too much pain there for it to be nothing other than cancer or some sort of early onset of paralysis. One of her medications had warned of potential paralysis or was that an article she had read in some magazine? She couldn’t be sure, but her doctor had to know. He wouldn’t dismiss her concerns this time. The evidence was clear.

The clock on her wall read 5:30. The doctor’s office was already closed. She’d have to call tomorrow. Hopefully, he’d be able to fit her in this week like he did most weeks. She put her hands on her knees and pushed herself up into a standing position slowly. She felt all 62 years of her existence on her shoulders as she stood up. She grunted as she straightened herself as much as she could nowadays. Her night gown stuck to her shoulders and her torso dampened by sweat.

She glanced at the digital thermometer on her wall, which displayed 76 degrees. The evening sun usually raised the temperature in her house during the spring and summer, but she couldn’t open any windows. She didn’t want to give any thieves or rapists an opening to get her into her home. Instead, she turned on an oscillating fan that sat on a table behind her sofa. The fan cut the thick air with its small blades giving her a temporary respite from the heat, which dissipated as she walked away from the limited radius of the fan. She sighed and wished she had AC, but then, she remembered that AC makes people sick because it recirculates stale air that has become saturated with germs. She couldn’t afford to get sick at her age.

She left the living room and ventured into the darkened foyer leading to her front door. There were no lights on in her house at the moment. She didn’t use lights during the day because she wanted to keep her electric bill under control. She also suspected that the electric company was over-billing her, so she kept her usage to a minimum. She unplugged all of her appliances when they weren’t in use except for that loud refrigerator, which, unfortunately, had to be plugged in all day. She had considered replacing it with a cooler, but that would require her to leave the house to buy ice every day. She only left her house to go to the doctor or to buy groceries from Old Man Smith’s store down the road.

At the window beside her front door, she stuck her fingers in between the slats of the blind and peered out into the street in front of her house. In that instant she recoiled and pulled her face back. Her neighbors across the street were in their driveway. She feared they had seen her looking at them. Curiosity got the best of her and she looked through the blinds again. The wife pulled bags of groceries from the trunk of her car and carried them into her house. One of her kids helped her. Donna watched as they made the trip back and forth until the trunk was empty. The wife slammed the trunk shut and paused a moment. She looked Donna’s way and seemed to stare directly at her. Donna jumped back from the blinds and gasped. Her ears burned as if she had been caught doing something embarrassing. She checked that the blinds were firmly closed and she walked back to her kitchen.

When she had grown up in this house, when her parents were still alive, there had been no black people in her neighborhood. Now, there were black people across the street from her and elsewhere in the neighborhood. She had seen them walk or drive by on occasion. The couple across the street had moved into the neighborhood over 15 years ago. They had been the first black people she had really seen in her life. Over the intervening years, she had said very little to them and they to her. Of course, nowadays, she rarely ventured outside for them to say anything to her.

A sick feeling settled into her stomach. Stomach cancer? She wasn’t hungry. What else could it be? Her doctor had not taken her earlier concerns seriously. Yes, he had done x-rays, but he claimed there was nothing to see. He had even shown her the x-rays, but she couldn’t make sense of the cloudy images.

Before she could return to her recliner, someone knocked on her door. The reverberating sound took her breath away and she almost gasped before she stopped herself. She stood very still as if the intruder could see through her front door. She finally willed herself to turn back to the door and crept up to the window next to it. She poked a finger at one of the slats on the blind and lifted it just enough to see the woman from across the street at her door. She let the slat down slowly and stood back from the blind. She didn’t know what to do.

Another knock. She jumped at the sound.

“Ms. Scott, it’s Jamie Anderson from across the street,” the woman said through the door.

Silence.

A shadow moved across the blind on the window by the door and Donna froze as if the woman could see right through it. The shadow paused, and then, Donna heard another voice, a young boy’s voice, before the shadow moved away. Donna let out a breath and her chest heaved in relief. She hadn’t realized that she had been holding her breath.

After a moment passed, Donna stepped back toward the blind and slowly lifted one of the slats to peer onto her front porch. She jumped back as someone walked away from her door right in front of the window. Her heart raced in her throat. She stumbled backward and caught herself against the wall next to the door. Someone was trying to break in. She tried to calm herself so that she could hear what was happening, but the thumping of her heart drowned out everything around her. She was too dizzy to move.

She held onto the wall, her palms braced against it ready for the impact of the intruder as he came through her door, but after a while nothing happened. Her terror subsided, and nothing but the humming of her refrigerator shushed away the silence. The light of the day had receded further behind her house and cast the usual shadows through her living room. The dust carried on as if nothing mattered. She stepped back toward the blind and lifted a slat with her shaking hand. No one was on her porch nor was anyone visible on the street in front of her house. A car passed by, a red smear of metal as it rolled down the hill. She panned left and right as far as she could see. Nothing.

She pulled on the cord of the blind and flipped the slats downward so that she could see the floor of her porch. That’s when she noticed something sitting at her door. She held her breath again. The woman had left something there. Curiosity burned her thoughts, but so did fear. She didn’t know this woman. She had only spoken to her reluctantly a few times in the early years after they had invaded her neighborhood. A frown creased her face. Now, she had something else to worry about.

All I Needed to Know

I learned all I needed to know about life when I was nine years old, important lessons like when things get difficult you find out who really cares about you (hint: fewer people than you may choose to believe). These were difficult lessons to absorb, but looking back, I realize that was the best time to learn, those critical formative years that lay the foundation for the adult I was to become. These lessons also help me create the characters I put in my stories because they are centered around universal flaws that drive human beings, so while those years weren’t necessarily kind, they produced an important perspective that informs all of my characters. So what were these lessons? Let’s take a look.

Ignorance is not an excuse. Everyone makes mistakes, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with mistakes. They’re good for you because I guarantee that you’ll remember your mistakes long after the dust has settled around your successes. The problem with mistakes is not the act of making them but the failure to learn from them. Such ignorance is inexcusable. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome is truly the definition of insanity and stupidity, too.

Pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m generally a tolerant person, but my experience with Debbie Downers is a mixed record at best. What is it with people who see only the clouds in a beautiful, deep blue sky? Everyone I’ve ever known who is a pessimist has been a miserable fool, and their self-imposed misery has resulted in, guess what, more misery. Pessimism is a cancer that begets terrible results. Life is too short. I’ve since cut most pessimists out of my life. I don’t have the time for them.

Blame is a fool’s game. We are all the result of our own decisions. Let me repeat: We are all the result of our own decisions. We all make bad decisions sometimes. I’ve made plenty, but I own them and move on. Trying to blame someone or something for your failures is about as effective as chewing gum to solve an algebra problem (yes, that’s in a song from the 1990s – guess which one). I’ve never met anyone who’s been able to blame their way to success, and my guess is that’s true throughout the entirety of human history.

Focus on what you can control, which in the end is only you. Getting anxious about what someone else has done or will do is a recipe for a bad headache and a miserable time. Worrying about who has what and who doesn’t isn’t much more productive. Poorly adjusted people spend too much time worrying about things well beyond their control, and come to think of it, most things are beyond your control. This lesson really hit me hard back then, and I’ve taken it to heart throughout my adult life, which has made me so much happier than I would have been. In the end, the only thing I can control is myself, and that’s where my focus lies. Everyone else can do whatever they want.

Each and every one of these lessons informs my writing. Creating the imperfect characters (and all of them should be imperfect if they’re human) requires salting their personalities with flaws. The clueless dolt who refuses to learn from his mistakes and keeps hurting those who care about him and the woman who seeks to blame anything but herself for her own failures are examples of characters I’ve imbued with these lessons. Sometimes, life is stranger than fiction, and that’s certainly true when it comes to my characters. I’ll continue to put these lessons to good use. There’s nothing wrong with mining a deep well of experience or creating characters that are just a hint of this and that from people I’ve met over the years. It certainly makes it interesting and entertaining.

Character Evolution

When I begin a novel, I typically write character summaries for each main character that includes descriptions such as what they look like and what their personalities are like. I include any backstory that I think may have a bearing on how they interact with other characters or change throughout the story. I consider this the baseline for my characters, but I don’t let it dictate the story too much.

I view these character summaries in much the same way as I view my outlines. They are guideposts in the writing process that can be moved or changed to accommodate the story as it evolves, and much like the original plot idea, characters often evolve in unforeseen ways during the writing and editing processes. Sometimes, I’ll go back to my original character summaries to see how much the characters changed from the beginning of the writing process – the change may be very little or it may be a lot. It’s fun to take a look back.

Why even bother with these summaries if I know I’m going to change the characters? I need them to keep me consistent throughout the story. As I write these novels, six months typically pass. I’m writing an hour or more a day for five days a week. If I didn’t have the summaries, my characters would be inconsistent in the novel in how they appear or behave. For example, in my last project, one of my characters had blonde hair in one chapter and brown in another. I could have justified that with the fact that women often change hair color, but it didn’t really make sense. I went back to my character summary to check the color and kept it consistent. This is a simple example of how the summaries keep me in line, but the same holds true for any major attribute for my characters.

The paradox in all of this is that my characters have to change. I write these summaries before I even begin writing the novel, but it’s impossible to capture every element of their being before I begin writing about them. As I’m working through the scenes and determining how they react to the things being thrown at them, I learn more about who I want them to be, so I change them. In my current novel, Origins, I decided that I wanted one of my pivotal characters to be more confrontational to add more conflict to the story rather than be the introspective type I described in my character summary. Her role is very important to the novel because she discovers the thing that totally twists the story and sends the reader for a loop. I needed her to be more obstinate and determined to fit the arc of the story, so I changed her.

As I get deeper into a story, I feel like I get to know my characters better. Just like when I meet someone for the first time and get better acquainted with them, I learn more about my characters as I write the story. I can describe them better than I could at the beginning. I know more about them and see how they change as they interact with other characters and are influenced by the story. It’s a virtuous cycle that bears fruit as the story progresses.

While I have a process that I follow, I’m not married to the result. I let my characters evolve to fit the story, but I remain grounded in who they are or were in the beginning. It gives my stories consistency and keeps me focused on the story I want to tell. In the end, I hope it produces the best story possible. It’s certainly fun to watch my characters evolve.

Visual Inspiration

Sunset

Photo credit: http://www.fromupnorth.com

Of all the tools I use when I write from the Scrivener software to Bing to the online dictionary and thesaurus, Pinterest is the one that often surprises people when I tell them I use it. How can a site dedicated to “pinning” pictures on a virtual bulletin board help a writer? Quite simply, I find it’s a place for visual inspiration and a way to give some physical manifestation to my characters and settings.

I live in the Pacific Northwest, which is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful natural settings on the planet (and I’ve been to a lot of places around the world). I find splendid natural settings to be inspirational, to put me in the writing mood, so when I see something that strikes me as fantastic, I want to write. There’s an endless parade of beautiful natural settings in the Pacific NW, but when I’m in my office sitting in my chair with only the view of the street in front of my house, it’s nice to be able to scroll through the gorgeous landscape photography on Pinterest and imagine I’m there instead of looking at my neighbor’s house (no offense to my neighbor, the house is fine in its own right). There have been many times when I’ve begun my writing time by scrolling through landscape pictures on Pinterest just to put me in the mood to write. It never fails to provide the visual inspiration I need.

Pinterest is not just about drooling over gorgeous natural scenery, it’s also a useful tool that helps me find the perfect images for my characters and settings. I’ve found pictures of people on Pinterest that I use as the basis for my characters. Mara, one of the key characters in my current novel, exists as a lone picture I found on Pinterest. I copied the picture to my character description in Scrivener, and I use it whenever I’m writing about her. Yes, my detailed character description should be enough, but I find having a picture makes it easier to reference. My character descriptions can be a page or two long, so having a visual makes it quicker if I want to check how I’m describing her in my novel. Since I’m writing a novel over a six-month stretch, consistency is not as easy as you may think. A picture helps me stay consistent.

The same holds true for settings. Sure, many places exist only in my mind, but I pivot a lot over the course of writing a novel. Sometimes, places can become something entirely different by the end of the novel, so it helps to have a visual anchor, and if I change things up, I need to get another visual anchor so that I can go back and ensure my writing is consistent (there’s that “c” word again). Once I finish a first draft, I usually let the work sit for a month or two so that I can approach it fresh when I do my many edits. During that dormant period, I’ve moved on to another work, so all the mental images I had in my head while writing the first draft are overwritten by new ones. Having the images from Pinterest when I return to edit the work helps me get back into the mindset of the novel once again.

Pinterest is a great tool for writers whether you need visual inspiration or props for your characters and settings. It’s one of the tools I use almost daily. Give it a try and see if it works for you.

Vince Van

While driving the streets of Tucson, Arizona this past weekend, I ended up on a road just off of Interstate 10.  A mile or two east of the Interstate, the neighborhood went from gritty to absolutely rundown with abandoned houses baking in the early morning sun, which was already intense enough to send heat waves flickering off the blacktop.  At one corner stood a neglected home with busted windows, a pock-marked stucco exterior, and a ramshackle fence that only remained standing because the wind wasn’t blowing.  The house had definitely seen better days and looked as forlorn as any in the neighborhood.  Another thing struck me about the house:  it had a dilapidated trampoline in the front yard that suggested that the house had at one time been a home for happy kids.  After all, what kid is not happy when jumping on a trampoline.  A visceral sadness overcame me as I examined the house before the traffic light changed to green and I drove on.  Had I not been with my young son, I would have stopped and taken a picture of the house, not for keepsake purposes, but because it instantly inspired a story that is still fermenting in my mind.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been grasping at a story idea that had refused to take shape.  I have no idea how these stories make it into my mind.  My wife has asked me why I write some of the stories that I do.  I don’t have a good answer.  The characters just pop into my mind and it’s like I step into another persona.  When I write, I become the characters and the story just flows from my fingertips.  It sounds supernatural, superstitious, or whatnot, but I’m not that type of person.  I’m actually logical and practical except when I write fiction.  Anyway, this story keeps lurking beneath the surface of some opaque river in my mind and each time I would reach for it, it would dash deeper into the water away from me like some skittish fish, but the moment I saw this house, the story burst through the surface and landed in my lap.  Yes, a real fish story.

Vince Van.  Vince grew up in that house with his single mom, three brothers, and three sisters.  His mom struggled to provide for her family after her husband was killed in a rash of violence that pushed the neighborhood further into neglect, Vince, the oldest child, was forced to grow up quickly and provide for his brothers and sisters.  Despite these challenges Vince stayed in school and managed to work his way through college.  He started his own business and became moderately successful.  He set out to make a difference in his community after seeing first hand how poverty and neglect could ruin generations of lives.  He started a charity to help those in need and got involved in local politics to help his community.  His persona proved popular with voters and he attracted the attention of the state political machine, which recruited him for his minority support base.  Eventually, he rose to become governor of Arizona.

Vince had the most admirable intentions in the beginning.  He wanted nothing more than to help those in his community avoid the miserable childhood he had suffered himself.  His mother had raised him right.  She had always been his guiding light, and even after she passed away, her voice planted itself in the back of his mind and challenged him to do the right thing.  And he always did.  Vince didn’t want to disappoint his mother.

Yet, power has a way of corrupting even those with the best intentions, and at the beginning of the story that has unfolded so far, we find Vince standing before that dilapidated, abandoned home one last time before he reports to prison.  His mother’s voice is all but gone, squelched by disappointment, shock.  With tears in his eyes, he remembers the youthful lives of his brothers and sisters and the everyday struggles they faced, and he wonders aloud about what went wrong, the proverbial question.  What did go wrong?  How did Vince meet this fate?

Those are the questions I’m asking myself.  The outline of the story is not finished.  It could change a lot as I continue to turn it over in my mind, but this is how all stories begin for me.  I create a character and put a face on that character and the story fills in behind him or her.  It’s a slow process that gradually gains momentum until it just pours from my fingertips onto the electronic page.  I can’t really explain it, nor do I want to.  I’m just glad it happens.  I have more story ideas than I have time to write.  My enthusiasm for each and every one waxes and wans like the phases of the moon, but eventually, some of them make it onto the pages of a novel.  Will Vince Van be given life on those pages?  Stay tuned.

I Like to Watch

First, get your mind out of the gutter.  Now, let me get mine out too.  Seriously, I do like to watch.  I’ve always been more of an observer than a talker.  It’s rare that I’ll talk anyone’s ear off.  Just ask my wife.  It drives her mad that I prefer quiet solitude to a rip-roaring conversation any day.  I find I learn so much more if I just listen and watch.  I believe that a person’s actions or behaviors reveal much more about them than anything they say.  Anyone can say what they think you want to hear, and many do.  The question that always lurks in the back of my mind is what would they do if they thought no one was watching.  These thoughts often lead to some interesting story ideas.  You take a simple act and twist it around until you’ve created something entirely fictional from a real life event.

I often pay attention to the most trivial details.  I’m not quiet sure why such things catch my fancy.  One of my favorite places to do this is at a race – not the car racing kind, the foot racing kind.  Runners are an interesting lot with many colorful characters that would pop off the page if given the right amount of care.  I’ll often pass by someone and notice the little details about them and spin them into a story.  Many of the characters in my stories have come about this way.  Whether it’s the way they talk or the sway of their gait, something unique usually catches my eye and I’ll recall these attributes later when I’m writing.  Sometimes, I’ll even go so far as to record my observations in my notes for use later.  They may not fit in the current story I’m working on, but I could use them later.  Every good story requires interesting characters.

Some of my friends may read this and be concerned that they’ll find themselves in my stories.  No need to worry.  It’d be impossible or a mere coincidence to recognize any real person in the characters I create.  Like a lump of clay, I mold them and form them into something wholly unrecognizable.  There’s just enough reality to get started and then the fun part begins.  That’s the great thing about writing fiction.  You can make your characters be anything you want even if their genesis was a real person.

So, like I said.  I like to watch.