I am a big fan of finding pictures of my characters or photos of locations.
Last week I spotted the perfect representative boy for my one character in an ongoing WIP called TDE. He was handsome in an aesthetic way, but wiry enough not to look too much like a Type A nerd. I was smitten. Out came the trusty moleskine and I wrote down his description, what he was wearing, the look, the image. This was as I got off the number 73 bus on Oxford Street by the way – so I was scribbling like a loon by the bus stop, blocking the way of my fellow commuters but yannow, whatevers – description is king!
And then yesterday, I popped into the Apostrophe on Baker Street – it’s lovely and large and open. Floor to ceiling windows, a lot of tables and even a smaller room with booths. I ordered my chai latte from the young female barrista and waited patiently. Next moment up pops a fellow barrista from the back, flashes me a dazzling smile and says “Have you been helped?” in this lovely East European accent. I smiled at him, smitten – here’s the brother of my Russian YA heroine.
He wasn’t very tall – maybe five, ten – very short blondish hair with dazzling blue eyes, made even more dazzling by the fact that both of them were shot through with red. He must have been in some kind of accident, I concluded, still smiling, noticing the scar on the side of his temple. His features were strong, more interesting than outright handsome. I took my time, cataloguing him, filing him away for future reference. Still smiling I pointed to his colleague and said: “She’s helping me, thank you.”
I got my tea, found an empty booth and sat down to read. I sent my friend Sarah a quick email to let her know I’ve just found Stefan! She replied “Quick, take a photo.”
And this got me thinking – how do you approach a random person and say:
“Hi, my name is Liz. I’m a writer. You look exactly like one of my characters I’m writing. Would you mind terribly if I take a photo of you with my phone?”
Can you do it without sounding utterly and completely insane? Or pervy or stalkery? Because I will be going back to that Apostrophe in the future.
I obviously opted not to approach him. But it came close. The booth in front of me emptied out and he came to sit down there to have his own lunch and talk on his mobile phone. In what I can only assume is Russian. Out came my trusty moleskine and I wrote down his description. Next I phoned Mark, the hubby, and gushed t him that I’ve found Nika’s brother Stefan. He laughed and said: did you get a photo?
And now I’m wondering: do I already sound insane / look unhinged when eyeing up people for potential character material? Or maybe I shouldn’t ask that question!