The Heroes and Villains of Everyday Life
You go about your business and suddenly you come across an individual who’s not exactly… kind. Who’s not the type of person you’d like to ask to come over for dinner. Who’s definitely not the type of person you would accept around your children without feeling the urge to load your weapon.
This individual could be male or female, young or old, a stranger or a remote acquaintance. It doesn’t matter; these people just happened to cross our paths regardless of how much we’d want to never meet them again. Just to clarify, they could be the road rage driver who cut in front of you then honked and yelled at you for no good reason. They could be the creep who stalked your daughter on her way back from school. They could be the neighbor who poured detergent at the root of your favorite tree because she doesn’t like the fallen leaves on her lawn.
Or you find yourself humbled by an act of kindness coming from a total stranger, someone who goes out of their way to help you, while expecting nothing in return. Someone you’d love to have over for dinner, but words fail to come out of your mouth to extend the invite. You can barely whisper thank you as they turn to leave, but they’ll be forever in your heart, together with the gratitude for having had the opportunity to meet them, even if for a split second.
It doesn’t matter how these people look like; authors build physiognomies easily. We don’t need much inspiration for physical descriptions. Where these people really bring value into our artistic lives is through allowing us a glimpse into their souls. I don’t mean that in a biblical way, not even remotely. Pragmatically though, such people make great heroes or villains. Sometimes I like to look at one of these individuals and ask myself, “If you were a serial killer, who would you kill? How would you go about it? What would pleasure you the most? And how would I catch you?” Or, on the other hand, “If you were my hero, how would you rescue me?”
Just like there are colors, myriads of colors in nature, there are equally many facets to human behavior. Sometimes people surprise us, whether in a good way or a bad one, but that dimension, that depth of perception, of feeling, of emotion, we only find in nature, in real people. In the strangers that provide us with inspiration for characters that that will become memorable, whether heroes or villains.
I like to people watch sometimes, looking for that edge of behavior, that wow moment when a complete stranger becomes a hero at the local mall just by returning a wallet or helping someone cross the street. All my characters are fictional, but here and there one of the traits they exhibit comes from a person who has crossed my path, at some point in time when I was watching. It’s discreet, buried amongst other personality traits my character is exhibiting, and it’s totally unrecognizable. After all, villains won’t admit they’re villains, and heroes don’t know they’re heroes.
All I do is watch, pay attention to the people that cross my path, and my world populates with countless heroes, and a few villains too.