Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Characters You Can't Write

I was out to lunch the other day and was joined by an Anonymous Person (hereinafter referred to as AP - and yes, that was a blatant abuse of legalese). Now, to be fair it had been some time since I'd seen then AP, and yes, it was the AP's birthday so the AP had been invited. At first when the AP showed up the rest of us were glad to see her. Unfortunately, that sense of gladness didn't last long. In fact, it was gone pretty much by the time we ordered food.

AP was sullen, moody, arrogant, obnoxious, and grating. Somewhere along the way AP became a self-appointed expert on everything, especially all things medical because she works in a hospital. Not as a nurse or a doctor, mind you, but an aide. Yet still she complained because the ICU nurses wouldn't listen to her. Nor the doctors. She's also become a bit of a hypochondriac, and while clearly she has some issues many if not most of her real problems likely center around her weight. Which she refuses to acknowledge.

So what had promised to be a pleasant brunch amongst five people became an awkward affair amongst six as AP held forth on everything that was wrong at work - that wasn't her fault, everything that was wrong with her - that wasn't her fault, and everything that was wrong with everything else. Which wasn't her fault. And no matter what the topic, she had an opinion, and it was the right one. Because it was hers.

Now they say "write what you know" and speaking for myself at least I have a tendency to populate the locales of my fiction with the people I meet in real life. Not to such a recognizable extent that I have to worry about being sued - I hope - but enough to give shape and form to the characters I write. But some people, despite being real people, are just too something to ever put to page, either because they would be unbelievable or because they would be too unlikeable.

Unless I ever write a disaster story, for example, the AP is simply too obnoxious as is to write into a story. She wasn't even so obnoxious that you kind of start to like them. Let's face it, Scrooge is a miserable person yet we still follow his story. If it had been the AP in "A Christmas Carol" Marley'd probably hang himself with his own chains, despite being dead already. And even if I wrote a disaster story, I'm not sure what sort of grisly demise would be sufficient to make it up to my readers for foisting her upon them for however many pages it takes to kill her off.

Just one of those things where even though it's real, no one would ever believe it.

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