Friday, 15 February 2013

Don't judge a book by its cover - or a man by his clothing.


I’m afraid I couldn’t resist the temptation this morning to go along to the State Library Book Sale being held in town. Until now, it has been held in a stuffy little room with no air conditioning. Getting around the books was a frustrating obstacle course, constantly bumping into people and almost dropping what you've picked up. This year it’s in the new Recreation Centre – air conditioned, spacious and easy to manoeuvre.

I was good. I got books for Sausage and Dynamo before I started looking for me and then I only got two. There wasn’t a lot there that I thought I might want to keep. These days, I tend to look at novels and think, “I can get that on Kindle”, and most non-fiction, I can get from the library anyway. There was one book I thought I’d like to have on my shelf though: “The Dummies Guide to Body Language.” When I’m writing, I need something to tell me how my character might be looking or standing or sitting with a particular emotion.

There it was, sitting on the table. But before I could grab it, a huge hand reached out and picked it up. I looked at the man who had ‘pinched’ it from me. His hand was only a part of his hugeness; six-foot-five at least, I’d say. He had a stubbly beard and wore overalls with reflective patches like mechanics or firemen wear. I waited, thinking to myself, he’s not the sort to want a book like that. (Terrible of me to stereotype, I know.)  Wrong. He flicked through it, gave a nod of satisfaction and added it to the pile under his arm. Long arms like that must come in very useful at book sales.

I spent the rest of my time wandering around the sale thinking about character creation. I went to a course about it over the weekend, so it has been on my mind anyway. Here we had a man who appeared to be a workman.  I probably wouldn’t have given him a second glance in the street. You’d imagine him getting home from work, and wanting nothing more than to put the day behind him with a beer, a bit of TV or a good adventure novel. In picking up that particular book, though, he became a mystery. Maybe he’s trying to understand his wife. Or maybe he’s another writer. Or a mature age student intent on getting another job. Maybe he just enjoys reading psychology. Picking up that book he became three-dimensional – a very big three-dimensional! It just goes to show that what the course presenter over the weekend said is very true. Add irony to a character and they become real and interesting. 

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