Monday, January 8, 2018

Creating Characters

I go to yoga classes in the city near my apartment on the upper Westside.  Although I’ve been taking classes there for about 5 years and recognize a lot of the people, I don’t really know any of them, but I still find them fascinating.

The class I go to most regularly is on Wednesdays at 10:30, Level One yoga. About half of the class is women like me, between 55 and 70, along with two or three guys also that age. The rest of the class is mostly women somewhere between 30 and 40 years old.  I observe them all.

It would be easy if I recognized them.  I used to see David Duchovny at my gym.  Actors are obvious.  They’re better looking than the rest of us and work out like their job depended on it—which of course it does.  But that’s not usually the case with my fellow yogis.  They’re not as handsome or as fit and not easily recognizable.  My speculation has been that they’re journalists, lesser known actors or artists, or teachers if it’s the summer or spring or winter breaks.

For several years there was a guy who came to yoga every Wednesday.  I think he was about 45 or so and lean and fit, but not super handsome so he probably wasn’t an actor.  He’d put his mat down in the first row and take off his shirt.  He’d also practice some of the harder poses until class started.  All of this annoyed me—he was, in my opinion, being a show off.  But besides being annoyed, I’d wondered who he was. Then he disappeared, leaving at the same time as our yoga teacher who went on maternity leave. I briefly wondered if he’d been her husband.  But that didn’t really work since he was, again in my opinion, too old for her.  But I decided he’d been coming to class because he had a crush on the instructor, explaining why he left when she did.  What he did for a living puzzled me.  Fast forward last week.  He shows up again. The woman I’ve designated our “class leader,” because she talks to everyone, asked him where he’d been.  “Travelling,” he said.  Hmm… Now I really don’t know what this guy does or who he is. Who travels for 18 months?

There are other interesting characters in the class.  The distinguished 60 plus man who’s all arms and legs,  shows up late every week, is totally inflexible, but keeps on coming. Then there’s the man with the therapy dog, sitting quietly in the back corner. I usually don’t notice them until the end of class when I’m leaving when I marvel at how well behaved his dog is.  There has to be a story there.  Finally there are the joggers, a band of 40-somethings, naturally fit and flexible, who head out to the park to run after our 90 minute class.  They just make me tired.

As fiction writers we create characters seemingly out of air, but maybe not so much.  Is it possible that my musings about my fellow yogis provide the blocks for building characters?  What they look like, what they wear, how they talk, and their regular attendance at yoga every Wednesday could all go to creating a believable character who will some day appear in a book. So much of what we do isn’t even conscious, but comes with being an artist.

No comments:

Post a Comment