Working in and around prisons for years tends to change your outlook on things – and people. And, usually for good reason.
Couple that little tidbit of learned behavior with the sick and twisted brain wave patterns of a mystery writer and all bets are off. Any snippet of a conversation overheard in a coffee shop, or a quick glance at a person walking down the street and a story starts to unfold.
On a break from the keyboard, we (Wifey, the Corgis and me) drove down to the Monterey Peninsula, on the central California Coast. After a few weeks of burning the candle at both ends, including forgetting that I had already written the dreaded synopsis of my latest novel, I needed some time away. Some peace and quiet.
Monterey and Carmel are perfect for a recharge. The mild climate, the ocean and walks on the beach.
The place does have more than a full share of colorful characters. Characters. Characters were something I was trying to avoid. But, here they were, all over the place. Stop the madness.
While out for a relaxing dinner in Carmel, we sat out on a patio with the Corgis and, my hand to God, witnessed a display of local color that illustrated the downside of marrying your cousin. Oh. My. God. Now, before you get all judgey-judgey on me; I’m not a snob. Honest, I’m not. I’m generally tolerant of fools, cretans and children (on leash). But this reinforced my prison outlook on things once again…
Picture two couples, out for a cold beer after work. Then another and another, followed by a change of pace to Long Island Ice Tea’s (for those of you who aren’t familiar with the beverage, a Long Island Ice Tea is a noxious blend of vodka, tequila, gin and rum combined for the purpose of getting your drunk on). Then the language changes, a bit louder and punctuated by descriptions of sexual congress with one’s mother, in every other sentence. This “Mother” gets around and apparently she’s quite amorous.
Turns out, these “gentle folk” don’t care none to much for the “Coasties,” who they blame for all their woes. There is a culture war going on between the people who live in the pricey confines of Pebble Beach, Pacific Grove and Carmel, versus the people who work there. I get that. Sure, the old “The Rich Get Richer” deal.
But at some point, your ability to get a job (and keep it for more than a couple of days) may have something to do with your perpetual hangover from Long Island Iced Teas, the torn off sleeves of your beer stained T-shirt, and your conversational prowess featuring your aforementioned Mother.
Listening to the genetically deficient conversation, I start thinking of putting these characters in my next book. This is too rich to ignore. The backwards ball cap, the roach-throated drunk cackle from the girlfriend and the prerequisite tramp stamp. The cast of Swamp People in a double wide. The problem is that the whole thing seems contrived, too stereotypical trailer park trash. Who’d believe that?
Nobody. But the thread of the relationship between those who have and those who don’t, could be pretty compelling in the right story. The struggle to make ends meet in the shadow of outlandish wealth. Lots of possibilities there. Sometimes the character doesn’t have to pop off the page. Sometimes, the character can exist in the rich background of the story. And, it’s more than a tramp stamp in the trailer park.