I live in downtown Seattle, a place populated with all kinds of characters: bearded hipsters, posh business-folk, foreign tourists of all nationalities, goth millennials, and random weirdos, just for starters. As such, I do a lot of people watching to get ideas for characters in my stories and novels. Usually, I grab a facial feature there, a nervous tick here, or a quirky hairstyle over there. In other words, most folks have one or maybe two interesting features I might use. But every now and then, the planets align, the heavens open, and the gods of literature send a fully formed character to stroll through my little reality for a brief moment.
About a week ago, I was shopping at Metropolitan Market here in Seattle (Metro is like a slightly less pretentious Whole Foods with name brands). I’m cruising the aisles, getting my smoothie makings, coffee, Perrier (I drink that shit by the gallon), and whatnot. I look up, and coming toward me down the coffee and tea aisle is a character straight out of a a classic Tarantino movie.
Let me see if I can capture this guy’s sheer fucking majesty. He was a bit over six feet tall, on the lean side (I’d put him at a buck seventy), with black hair done in a kind of fifties breaker haircut, and a face that looked like a cross between a youngish Clint Eastwood and a current Michael Madsen. He could have been anywhere from 40 to 50, and he had one of those faces that said “Yes, I have absolutely seen and done some shit.” He looked like he hadn’t shaved in maybe three days, but the stubble was perfect, and he was one of those lucky assholes whose beards seem to grow like they were drawn by a graphic designer. He wasn’t quite what you’d call handsome; he was honestly too cool for that.
It gets better. He was wearing a tailored navy blue suit (obviously designer) with a white button-up shirt under the jacket. The shirt was open to mid-chest so you could see what looked like a full-body tattoo that traveled up onto his neck in little spidery lines. He had the sleeves of his jacket pushed up just below the elbow, with the white shirt rolled over the cuffs, and he had full-sleeve tattoos on both arms that ended at his wrists. His shoes were black leather, expensive, and recently polished. He had no piercings I could see; they would have been slightly too much, if you ask me.
Now you might be thinking this combination of clothing, body art, and style would be super douchey on any normal human being. Not this guy. He may have been the coolest motherfucker I’ve ever laid eyes on. If you’d have come up to me in the Metro Market, standing there like a dumbass staring at this poor man, and said, “Yeah, that guy? He’s the deadliest hit man in the Russian and the Italian mob, and he moonlights for the Yakuza,” I would not have questioned it. If you’d said, “That dude? He’s a fallen angel taking a break from hell to fetch some whole wheat Triscuits for Satan,” I would have believe it. Fuck, if you told me, “Hey, you know those books you like by Stephen King? The Dark Tower ones with that totally awesome character Roland Deschain? Yep, this is the guy he’s based on, except this dude is actually more badass,” I would have nodded and mumbled, “Of course he is.”
I fought the urge to take out my phone and snap a picture, and it was a struggle, let me tell you, but I wasn’t about to stalk and photograph a gun-slinging fallen angel hit man, mostly because I didn’t want to look like a creep. Sure, my memory of the guy has probably grown a bit, and a few details might be slightly exaggerated by now, but, I swear, ninety-five percent of what I’ve written here is gospel.
So, what am I trying to say here? Basically, the world is full of characters, and if you pay attention, one might walk right out of Metro Market and into your next story.
Encountered an interesting character of your own? Share it in the comments.