Usually, the person in the wrinkled t-shirt is grim-faced and sweating slightly even though it’s a cool day. Their clothing threatens to put you in their novel if you cross them. Make the wrong move and you’ll land on page 42 with a bad haircut. If they’re an exceptional writer with a wide readership, a low murmur of gossip and muffled laughter may follow in your wake.
As a novelist, I develop my characters so differently that you will never have to worry about landing in my stories. Annoy me, confound me, do your dastardly worst and you might contribute a tiny nuance, say a nameless character’s throwing her neck out by trying to toss her hair like a cool kid.
The way into my stories is to be your best, most exceptional self. Be ingenious. Solve a problem with zest, humor, and flair. Share a secret talent. Be real. Be human. Make me laugh — but don’t be concerned about your effect on me. My work is devoted to letting my characters reveal their own true selves. They arrive whole, lugging their own baggage and glowing their own genius.
On an endless drive home on the New Jersey Turnpike, I was stranded at a dismal rest stop. In the coffee shop so I could compose myself and let the car compose itself, I met the dynamic, sparkling Sam Cash. When I commented on the “Sam $” on her name badge, the poised, pretty brunette told me its story. Her eyes shone when I told her that I was a writer, prompting me to promise her a starring role — and here she is.
Thank you, Sam — and Shaleeka, Pete, Michelle, and the countless others who have been their complete, wonderful human selves and let me do the same. You are the ones that I write for and cherish. It is my life’s work to capture aspects of your intelligence, grace, and humor in stories. As for wannabe writers sporting threatening t-shirts, you’ve had your moment in the very first paragraph.