One of the ways in which I get stories in my head is through my lust for observing people, usually strangers. Whenever I’m in a large public situation, such as a concert or at a theme park, I enjoy watching people and imagining what their stories are. It always amazes me just how many people there are in this town, city, state, country…how many different kinds of people there are, and how many tragedies, secrets, joys, sorrows, miseries, accomplishments and just plain ol’ regular stories are going on at any single time. And for whatever reason, on this particular day, we were all at Such and Such Concert together, listening to Such and Such sing. Our lives intersected – even if we never speak, never see each other, never enter into a friendship. We all shared a moment.
I like inventing stories about people who might be standing off to the side talking to each other…like a couple standing with their arms folded, for example. I will come up with some story about how they are in the middle of an argument about how he didn’t take care of the dog vomit on the back porch before they left and she didn’t give him any earlier in the day…but they had these concert tickets, so here they are. Reality is – they could be a brother and a sister, just waiting for their friends to show up, looking around.
There might be a lady with three little girls sitting on a blanket, all looking around. I will come up with some story about how her husband just left her after 11 years of marriage, with three children, for a young hot girl who works at Hooters, and the only way she could make her girls feel better is by bringing them to this concert so they could see Such and Such. Reality is that it could just be some woman and her daughter and her daughter’s two friends at the concert and her husband is off at home, helping a friend move a load of bricks off a truck.
When I wrote Scout’s Honor, I did so with the intention to build upon that story’s characters. It might just be some random character who is mentioned or who has one sentence of dialog. But that person came into Scout’s story at one point and time for whatever reason. And that person has his or her own story to tell.
I have shared moments with lots of strangers over the course of my life, and even had a few relationships develop from some of those moments – short or long, for good or for bad, some of which I could’ve done without and wish never happened at all…and some of which were spectacular experiences of human kindness and generosity and magic. All life stories.
Do people come into your life for some grand reason? I don’t know about that. Actually, if I’m being honest, I no longer believe in that platitude at all. I think they come into your life just because they come into your life – you were both at the same time and place, sharing a moment. There is no grand reason. It’s just chance. And then what becomes of that situation then becomes just another story in your life – happy one, sad one, indifferent one. And all these stories then build up what we eventually call a life…lived. And then some of that might end up in an obituary when it’s all over.
But despite how cheery that sounds – LOL – the stories need to be told. The stories are what makes all of this a big shared human experience. I am looking forward to writing my next one, about a character that appears briefly in Scout’s Honor. His name is Buddy and he has one hell of a story.