I usually base my characters on traits of real people I know or have observed. In ‘White Wolf Moon’ Annie the shopping cart lady was solely taken from a woman I frequently saw in Kamloops and all the central characters were based on real friends I had back in the day.
With the sequel to ‘White Wolf Moon’ I chose to invent a couple of people to provide a little excitement for my main character Evan Morris…a sixty-something peace lovin’ laid-back hippie-type. One of these folks is Fergus Lloyd, a backwoods socially awkward and slightly uneducated hillbilly kind of guy who gets into a physical confrontation with Evan over an old truck. Those that have read ‘White Wolf Moon’ will know how the old truck plays into the plot. This was a scene created to fill out the story of Ginn, Evan’s white wolf-cross.
At first I thought I’d over-written the character and perhaps turned him into more of a caricature of a culture I know little about but today (this is where the déjà vu comes in) I realized I have perhaps been too gentle with him.
Today was a shopping day for me. I hit all the stores that stock stuff I collect from Hot Wheels to wolf merchandise. All I had left was to pick up some groceries for our food bank donation so I decided to grab a coffee and a donut. I do this so rarely that it’s still a bit of a treat for me.
I’d just settled in with my two double-chocolate donuts and my double-double coffee (I know but I love saying ‘double-double’) when two fellas sat at the table across from me. Yup…Fergus was one of them. He had the same build and was literally wearing the same clothes that I described in the scene, right down to the beaten hat. He then took off said hat to (lo and behold) reveal the same close haircut, almost shaved.
It was when he started talking that really brought a bit of a shiver. The same dialect and lack of grasp of the English language spilled from his lips. His speech patterns were almost identical to those I had gifted to Fergus right down to the repetition of certain words and phrases. His eyes were constantly studying the room and the people seated around him. He was loud and gruff and gave the impression he wouldn’t take kindly to anyone looking back at him.
From the scene I wrote: “He presented himself as a foreboding adversary but there was some sort of fear there, an uncertainty. Swagger aside Evan sensed he was staring into the eyes of the hunted.” That’s the impression this man gave.
It is chilling to run into a character you created, especially this one. He is a character that pulls sympathy from you one minute and the next minute he has you wondering what he’s going to do and how much it’s going to hurt. While Fergus dealt out some physical punishment to Evan I doubt the man in the donut shop would have done the same although considering my almost-perfect physical representation of him I decided not to stick around and find out.