Today I went shopping with four generations of family. Are there other families that do this? I’m not sure, but I did notice that people would look and eyebrows go up. Each one of these people have their own lives. They go home to either empty houses or ones full of people. Maybe their home-life is wonderful or maybe full of fear – how do you tell?
One woman I saw was a quiet person. She was buying a huge bundle of fat quarter squares in the fabric shop. I was getting machining needles and browsing the new sewing machines that had come in. They were on sale and me and the shopping assistant were being loud about the pros and cons. This one is good for zig-zag but the gears are plastic and this is a basic machine that can tangle the bobbin, but has metal cogs. I suppose it was the same banter you would hear in a garage between two mechanics, but on a smaller scale. This woman waited and, if I hadn’t stopped and looked at her, the sales assistant may not have noticed her.
But what sort of life has she got? Oddly her clothes were conservative but her colour choice for fabric wasn’t. I could picture her sewing a resplendent quilt by hand, she seemed that precise. But where did I see her?
I thought of the past. Oddly, a log cabin more American than British and then I realised it wasn’t the American past but the Welsh past. I pictured her in a traditional stone and slate cottage. The kind you see in estate agents that require ‘renovation’. A basic house.
I also saw her alone. Perhaps a figure in a fairy-tale or story. One that is always underestimated, but comes through in the end.
Of course the reality is probably a modern house and a large family, but this is the odd thing. I had created this character before I’d left the fabric store, and my character was old. Yet when I met her later (the town is one street so you meet everyone shopping) I realised that she wasn’t. In fact she was a lot younger than I thought.
Her stooped shoulders were only in my imagination. Her long grey hair, my creation. She had blonde short hair. But for what I’m working on I at the moment I had created her to go into the story. She, as the character, is unrecognisable, yet because I met her the character is suddenly more real to me.
I think the process of creating a character is dependent on ‘finding’ them, and, of course, I am always shocked when I meet them in town.