Luckily for me, the universe decided to give me a great example.
Two or three weeks ago, I spotted a sign on a neighbor's lawn. It proclaimed, in giant letters:
My fantasy football team really sucked this week.
I laughed and drove on. It wasn't until later that I thought, dang. I learned a lot about this neighbor without exchanging a word.
- He's in a fantasy football league.
- He might not be very good at it. (Final judgment reserved until I see how many times the sign appears on his lawn.)
- He's not ashamed to poke fun at himself.
- He accepts the consequences of his actions.
- He probably has a great sense of humor.
I loved it. All that insight from one sign! I immediately began planning to have every character in every book I ever write take part in a fantasy football league. (You think I'm kidding, don't you?)
But the story doesn’t end there.
The sign popped up in a couple of other places around the neighborhood. Each time I saw it, I laughed. Then it moved to a different home – but with a difference. At this latest residence, the word SUCKED was covered with tape. The sign now read:
My fantasy football team really was sad this week.
A tiny difference, right? Two little words. But I have a very different view of that neighbor than I do of the others.
I doubt I'll ever come up with something that inspired to give insight into my characters, but I must say, it was fascinating to see the difference that was created by two little words. My question for all of you: which of those neighbors would you would like to live beside?
EDITED TO ADD: Guess what? The sign moved and changed again! This morning it was on a different yard. Now it says,
My fantasy football team really needs a new coach.
I love watching how this develops!