Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Characters for hire

As the evening settles in early and I am still here in my pyjamas reading stories by others and poems by students my mind wanders round to the issue at hand: I have all these characters and mini situations that occur to me, but no desire to take them out for a walk and see how they do in the world. So, I offer them up to you, fair fiction writers that you may well be. All I ask is that you let me know who they become if ever they do, and what you name them.

Jobless 20somethinger, man, obsessed with watching the goings-on through the windows of a hospital opposite the apartment where he lives in a mid-sized town. Rarely if ever leaves home. Has binoculars for zoom view. Living vicariously? or suffering vicariously? Big smoker, thanks to his roomate who comes and goes providing groceries, criticism and packs of Marlboro Reds. Not a computer dude.

Woman, psychic but in denial that being psychic is possible. Late thirties, scientist specializing in genetics, well off. Often required to go to "functions" and to kiss up to potential grant providers or pharmaceutical companies who fund her and her lab's work. Likes to dress up for these, hates the socializing. Lives with longterm boyfriend who makes good living, he likes his independence and that she is independent though both want kids now. One night, at a cocktail party to launch a new partnership with Pfischer, an old woman comes up through the milling crowd and grabs her arm, staring deep into her eyes. She has a long flash of herself about to be robbed by that same woman. When the old lady lets go and quickly snatches the purse of our scientist and charges for the elevator, our scientist is stunned immobile by what she imagined now happening. As the momentary daze wears off, she chases after the old lady who turns, hands her her bag, and says "You need to know what you are capable of". Our scientist snatches her purse back and turns to return to the party, only mumbling shakily, "a fluke, that was."

Lesbian on the cusp of thirty, this woman has always appeared very rational, and still does, but inside she has a wild, imaginary life where she believes strongly that she is being watched 24/7, and therefore behaves in little ways, especially when totally alone, as if on camera. When she meets new people she often suspects they are part of the plot to learn more about her, so is evasive when asked questions or makes things up. But now, she is falling in love with a total stranger who is equally opaque when it comes to discussing her past or job. As things progress, will the inner life of our main charater begin to seep through the fissures of the outer one, especially as she grows more desperate to know her new partner?

Man, bald except for tufts of soft white hair not unlike bat-wings flopping over his ears, early 60s, a widower, comes home to his small house in the suburbs to find it has burnt down. Puzzled as to why no one called him about it, especially since he has lived in this neighborhood for over 30 years, he stands there for awhile. No one comes out of their house to see whether they can offer him comfort or an explanation. Perplexed, he goes to a local cafe where he borrows the laptop of another client to email his two children (who are now grown and living with their own families on opposite sides of the country). He announces that he has decided to take early retirement from his well-paid accountant job and head out on a trip.

Math whizzes, these two high school juniors, boy and girl, not a couple, decide they want to do a summer internship with the FBI. They think, after all, it is a riot that the FBI even has such a program. However, FBI internships aren't available for people their age. So, their first step must be to fake i.d.s thoroughly enough to even get their applications through the door. Both are generally not political, but love puzzles, and finding out what really goes on in the FBI and whether the system is as full of holes as they think it is, is the adventure they figure will get them away from the dull, smalltown community they have been living in and prepare them for writing the coolest MIT entrance essays ever, guaranteeing them a spot.

No comments: