Finding the Character

People ask, “Where do you find a character?”  Sometimes, a character finds the writer.

My co-author Cheril Thomas and I worked very hard to develop multidimensional characters for our mystery serial, Whispers.  We added traits to broaden their personalities during the first 20 episodes of the serial published at

Earlier today, I saw one of our characters walk into a McDonald’s while I was sipping a milkshake.  This surprise of recognition turned into a cold chill of fear.  He wasn’t one of the nice characters in the story.

It was the Man with the Snake Tattoo. snake-tattoo Cropped

He was about 5’10” with dark hair, wearing a baseball cap turned backwards, just like our character.  He had tattoos, just like our character.  He had a motorcycle, just like our character.  He wore a leather vest and when he turned around, the club patch of his motorcycle gang covered the back.  He wore dark jeans and had one of those long heavy chains hanging low on his leg and back up to something hidden in his pocket.  He wiped his face with a black and white bandanna, probably the colors of his club.

Our character isn’t exactly friendly and warm.  You might say he’s a bad guy.  The man I saw today fit that description.  It wasn’t his face, which was nice, even nonthreatening.  It wasn’t how he looked.  It was how he acted.  He didn’t walk into the restaurant.  He swaggered.  Just inside the door, he paused, pushed his dark wraparound glasses up on top of his hat and scanned the restaurant.  Was it his slow, deliberate manner of looking at everybody that made me catch my breath?  Was it the way his eyes narrowed as he looked around?  Was it the way he stood, tense and ready to react in self-defense?  I guess he didn’t perceive a threat, because he walked up to the counter and ordered something to eat.

Other than giving me a very unsettled feeling, this man gave me an idea that we could add to the story.  It was his facial hair.  I guess you could call it a beard, maybe.  It started at the jawline and grew down the neck instead of up on the face.  When he turned in profile, the beard gave him a very aggressive look.

Not wanting to miss this opportunity to show my co-author that one of our characters really exists, I reached into my purse and pulled out my phone.  I know, I know, it wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done.  The temptation was just too great.

I positioned my milkshake cup so I could hide the phone to take a picture.  That’s when I saw four more members of his gang walk in, all of them clad in black leather vests with prominent club patches on their backs.  It was obvious that facial hair worn in that unusual shape was a requirement for membership.

While they were ordering, I focused on my character.  It took three tries, but I got my shot.  It was a little out of focus.  That didn’t matter.  I had my proof.

As I dropped the phone into my purse, three of them came my way, each taking a table near me.

Time to get out.

Do you know the old adage, Be careful what you wish for, because you might get it?

Today, it was, Be careful what you create, because you might meet it one day in a McDonald’s.


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