Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Finding Characters on the Bus

by Rebecca Talley

My super cool husband recently took me to Hawaii for a second honeymoon and it was awesome. I loved every minute of it. Hawaii is gorgeous and the best part, besides the ocean, snorkeling, surfing, food, luau, and sea turtles, was that there was no snow. No snow in sight. just warm, perfect weather.

My husband decided he wanted to see (and bodysurf in) the big waves on the north shore of Oahu. Since we were ataying in Waikiki and didn't have a rental car (you can walk to anything in Waikiki), this decision entailed riding a bus to the other side of the island (for $2.25 you can ride a city bus all over the island).

Though it took a long time, almost 2 hours to get there, the ride was a goldmine--at least for me. I have never seen so many characters assembled in one place. I wished I'd had my notebook to write down all the details of the people I saw. (I live in rural CO and never, ever ride public transportation). Who knew such colorful people rode a city bus?

There was the 70-something woman in a short mini skirt and high heels, carrying a dog in a little cage thing. She had long red hair and lots of jewelry. I imagined she was trying to recapture her youth, trying to look young and beautiful because the man in her life left her because of her aging body.

Then a 20-something local guy decided to befriend us. His coarse language made my ears turn red, but he was full of great information. He told us all about where not to go in Hawaii. I imagined he was a surfer, looking to avoid the responsibilities of life, just wanting to find that perfect wave.

Another woman with dark hair tied up in a ponytail, told us she'd moved to the island a year ago. I noticed that she as well as the other local guy had a speech pattern that included "yeah" after most of their sentences. I imagined she came to Hawaii looking for peace and to get away from the pressures of her job as a prosecuting attorney in Los Angeles.

The most colorful of them all was a skinny Hawaiian guy with long, matted black hair that stuck up on top of his head. He had wild eyes and dark, dirty hands. He didn't say anything, but he pantomined fishing and then gathering the fish, I assume, into his net. He pawed at the air, close enough to me that it made me uncomfortable. I imagined that he'd taken one two many drugs and his brain was fried and he was reliving, in his damaged brain,  a time when his grandfather took him fishing.

The next time you get stuck on creating a character, consider riding the public bus or train. You may see people who become characters in your next book. And, don't forget your notebook!


  1. You'll meet some unique characters that way! I always enjoy people watching at baseball games for the same reason.

  2. There are places with no snow? Can't be!

    I like your descriptions-- funny, I do that too, imagine where the people came from and their motivations for being where they are.