Hiya Blog Land, today I am going to discuss talking to strangers. I hope that the majority of you reading this blog are adults. If you are a kid reading this, remember that talking to strangers can be dangerous (#strangerdanger), and you should do it with the supervision of your parent or guardian present. But since I’m pretty certain that most of you are wine drinking, hippie smoking, late night writing insomniacs happy go lucky people (like myself) — I am going to take this opportunity to advice you to talk to strangers. Talking to strangers in public places is a tool I use to help me develop interesting characters and dialogue.
If you read this blog, you know that sometimes I write posts about “Interesting People.” Why do I do that? I do that because sometimes I get stumped and I think, wow — I am going nowhere with this character. I like to people watch as a way to receive information from the real world and transmit the information creatively on a page. This is (in my opinion) prime material for character development.
I know what some of you writing practitioners might be thinking, “Hey weirdo, not all human beings
are interesting. In fact, the majority of the human race can be pretty boring. Sometimes people have conversations about absolutely nothing!” Which is suggesting that not everyone has something meaningful to express. To that I say, HUMBUG! I think everybody on this planet is an interesting human being. I think sometimes people express themselves with their bodies. And sometimes the things that are not said (things left to the writer’s imagination) can become pretty juicy material if you work at it. Anyways, to you naysayers out there — I say, this is a fun exercise to do in a writing group. It can even be an observation exercise. In fact, at Berkeley I had a professor tell us to go to public spaces and write down the atmosphere of the room to practice creating worlds. Then we were to create a character based on the experience and during class we would combine our characters and create dialogue that could potentially happen between these two individuals. The most incredible things came out of it, and it lead to some bizarre and fun story plots.
Anyways, yesterday I was at this bar with a friend and we were drinking something brewed in their own establishment. The bar is called Hotsy-Totsy in Albany, CA. We had been searching for a bar all night, and someone suggested we go. We were so happy they were still open we danced into the bar and sang along to the jukebox Motown songs. There was a man beside us wearing a baseball cap. He had a great smile, but he hovered over his drink as if pieces of himself were falling back into the glass and he was there to drink it. He seemed like a cool cat, so we started a conversation. I learned about the history of the bar, that they brew their own carbonated alcoholic drinks, the bar lady came to us and told us about the manager and how she won a National Award for her Pisco Sour — and y’alls know I love me some Peruvian themed stories. The award was placed on a placard on the wall. Machu picchu, National, and her name on the certificate. I ordered a Pisco Sour to try it out, and atop the bar lady put chicha morada essence. I was super impressed. Anyways, that night I learned about the history of the neighborhood, the bar, the man in the baseball cap had been going to the bar for years, and next door was a parking lot with a taco truck that closed right as we stumbled our way over. If I wanted, I could write about a man waiting for the love of his life to return to the bar they frequented. I could write about a serial killer who prays on people who are hungry and don’t make the taco truck in time. I can write about a bar lady who left all her family behind in Minnesota to pursue her dream of Mixology. I can write about anything, and that’s the best part.
Endless possibilities! Reach out into this world Readers, it’s absolutely magical.