We all picture the characters we read about. I have such a clear view of Harry Bosch, probably one of my favorite literary characters, now that he's on TV, I still see what I think he would like in my mind when I read Mike Connolly. I don't see Titus Welliver, the actor that plays him on the show. I've been reading about Harry for over twenty years, I can't un-imagine how I see him.
And, I've found that I use real people to base my descriptions on when I'm writing. I do this subconsciously, I don't realize I'm doing it until the book is finished or during the editing phase when I'm trying to think logically about the book.
My first two detective novels, the main character looks like my good friend, John. He also happens to be one of my readers here, so this may be a bit of a surprise to him. (Hi John!) But, after I wrote the first one, I realized I was sort of describing him. I describe Keller, (the detectives name) as six-two, lean, curly brown hair cut short and high and tight, with deep dark eyes. If I had been writing a book for my college roommates I would have written- "he looks like, John. With darker eyes."
Of course I didn't realize it at the time, but I do now. And it hit me the other day where Olivia came from.
I have to stay in somewhat decent shape. My real job dictates that I do, but, even if I was writing full time I would still enjoy five days a week at the gym. The sheriffs office I work for has two gyms, but I still pay a monthly fee at a big one. I like the classes, meeting people outside of my real job, girls in yoga pants, steam rooms (no better cure for a hangover by the way), racquetball, and the options at a large commercial gym.
I talked about how I get depressed if I don't get to write at least once a week, well the gym really keeps me sane. If I'm not regularly working out, I get real depressed. Its noticeable within me. I tell my daughter all the time, exercise is without question the best antidepressant ever invented.
It was about five years ago I saw this girl at the gym and I was literally taken aback. I don't know what it was specifically about her. I really don't. But, I was literally just in awe of her. She was about five-six, black curly hair that she sometime straightened, had a great proportioned body, and a dark olive complexion. She was either from a middle-eastern descent, or maybe Greek, possibly Italian. Sound like anyone you read about recently?
I know, don't worry, this story gets much better.
And I know I sound like a creeper, and I promise I'm not. This girl just triggered something in my mind that just made me want tell her that I love her and see if she wanted to go to lunch, in Jamaica. It was weird.
We used to keep a dry-erase board of the screwed up things we said at work in our office. I was working out at the gym with a co-worker, Tim, and she came in. I discreetly pointed her out and said, "Dude, that's her."
Tim said, "Yeah, wow she is hot."
I said, "If she's ever on a milk carton, don't come looking for her at my house."
Needless to say that made it on the board. And apparently I may be sort of a creeper.
Anyway, about a year later, I went to the gym when I was getting off work, just before six A.M. I was going to the spin classes pretty regularly at the time, probably giving my knees a little break from the treadmill. I had never seen the hot girl go to the spin class, and I was a regular at the early morning ones when we got off work. I always try to get there early and get a bike at the front of the class. I do this for three reasons. The bikes are really close together. I don't want to be some creeper guy who sits in the back of the class making girls feel uncomfortable. And some of the girls like to talk back and forth during the class which for some reason infuriates me, so I go to the front of the room and am usually by myself.
There are about sixty bikes on the lower level of our "spin" room. If I get there early enough I can grab one next to the wall, at the front of the class, all by myself.
Well that morning, the girl I basically told a co-worker I wanted to kidnap decided to attend spin class. And out of about fifty five empty bikes she strolls up and picks the one next to me. I was pedaling on the bike, looking at my phone and trying to calm myself because she was sitting next to me. Then, she turns to me, smiles, and said, "Hey, I've seen you around for a while. I've never taken a spin class, how are they? My name is..."
I started sweating. I tried to but couldn't remember what her name was, less than one second after she told me. I allowed our eyes to meet and I instantly felt myself blush. Like a good blush from my teenage years. A blush that she would be able to see in the dimly lit spin room.
I'd love to tell you that I recovered, and we shared that lunch in Jamaica.
Instead, when I tried to answer her my voice cracked like I was twelve, which made me blush more, then I mumbled my response together so I really didn't say anything intelligible. Which of course made me blush even more, and the next thing I knew I was looking at my phone as I left spin class. Before it started.
Looking back this is how I responded. "HEY!!!!!MYNAMEEEEEEE (High Pitch Puberty Crack In A 38 Year Old) ISSSIINGINDOINGDKLHLSA."
You can see why I left.
I saw her a few times since that horrible, horrible morning. Then she must have changed gyms, or moved from the area. To her credit, each time I saw her after that morning she smiled at me. It was like she knew not to try and talk to me, but was letting me know it was ok that I folded under the pressure. I imagine that girls like her must get hit on all the time, and maybe she is used to responses like mine. Then I think of my voice changing like a kid in puberty, and figure she probably thinks I'm mentally off.
I didn't realize that I would use her appearance to make a literary character. That just kind of happened.
I've talked to women in all sorts of settings in my forty years. In social settings, in relationship settings, in work settings, in dating settings, in friend settings. I shouldn't have had an issue with at least talking with her about spin class.
But I did.
Maybe that is why Olivia has an olive complexion, with an athletic body, and dark hair. Maybe I wanted to make her come to life. Maybe I would rather live in a fantasy world than actually formulate a good answer when a cute girl asks me a question. Maybe, living in this computer making characters is easier than living in the real world.
Now I'm getting deep, and I didn't want to do that.
Or, maybe, this is just life. I'm trying to become a writer and am using people I've seen in real life to describe my characters. People that have made an impression on my mind in some way. People that I've remembered. I can't make up a character without a face, and any face I make up will be a product of my memories.
Either way, next time I promise you, I won't let my voice crack and fold like lawn chair. Next time I'll say, "Hey, I'm David. This class is pretty good, Cici has the best classes on Tuesday mornings. Good workout any day though. I've see you around, also. Do you have any plans for lunch? I know this great restaurant in Jamaica"