Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Visuals of Our Characters

imageYesterday it was time for me to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew my driver’s license (fun-fun!)

For anyone not living in the States, just imagine your most-un-favorite bland, government-related building. Someplace sort of like the one in the picture above.

With lines like this: image That would be what a Department of Motor Vehicle office in the US is like. It was pouring a cold rain yesterday. The DMV office had moved in the last couple of months, and they’d accidentally (I think) provided me with the wrong directions. I took a left instead of a right and ended up in a very bizarre location. Since I figured the DMV would be at a bizarre location, I spent some time looking for it.

I finally figured out they’d given me wrong directions and found the office (you had to make a U-turn to even get in there.) Very tricky!

Sometimes you get warm, funny, helpful people at the DMV—I’ve seen them there in years past. Most unfortunately, however, those particular people were not staffing this particular DMV. My umbrella broke on the way in and I was sopping. Most of the people in the waiting room were sopping wet, too. The wait escalated. I pulled out my Kindle. No one in the room looked very amused.

Suddenly, there was a primal howling that broke up the nearly complete silence in the soulless, bureaucratic room. It was a blowsy woman who was pitching a hissy fit. “The computers is down (sic)!!!” she stormed up to inform our waiting room, face red, arms waving. She looked a little like she should have been on the cast of a Southern version of Les Misérables.

Apparently she was trying to summon an insurrection of some kind. It was cold and wet, we were in a dreary place, the wait was long, the staff was surly—and the computers were down, meaning that our unpleasant experience was all for nothing. It wasn’t a terrible idea.

However, considering the fact that there were armed highway patrolmen right there in the building, no one seemed inclined to take her up on it.

But this was when things got interesting at the DMV for me. Because she was one of my characters. Just a secondary one, but she fit the character to a T. Especially when she was all riled up like that. If I’d dared, I’d have taken her picture with my cell phone. But—I didn’t. Otherwise, there might have to be a new mystery written—Murder at the DMV. With me as the victim. :)

The nice thing was, though, is that now I had a picture of her in my head and I could describe her more easily. Seeing someone or something makes it a ton easier for me to describe. It made the whole trip to the DMV worth it. Oh…and the computers finally came back up. I decided to sit there and wait it out. So now I’m good until 2019 (except when I take my son there for his license in the next couple of years.)

Of course, I don’t always come across my characters in such a serendipitous way. Sometimes I go actively looking for them.

Places, besides the DMV, where I’ve found characters:

Swanky characters—upscale coffee shops in nice areas Suspicious types—the evening news (local, not national) Unusual characters—amusement parks, circuses, and fairs (I take my kids and a notebook) Another useful tool for finding images of your characters is Google Images (I like to put the safe search option on to keep from stumbling into areas of the internet where I’d rather not venture.)

With Google Images, you can search for a specific type of image (cowboys, ballerinas, football players) or just sort of wander around until specific images catch your eye. Do you need images of your characters to better describe them? How do you find them?