Have a look.  Strike up a conversation.  Take a longer look.  Don’t be afraid of their eyes.  Look deeper.  Ask questions.  Listen.  The people sitting across from you are your new characters .  Have you asked them where they’ve come from, where they’re going to, why they’re hidden in the belly of a boat and have no luggage, why they’re clinging to each other?  Why the child can’t smile?  Will they ever have shadows again?  Your knowledge of them becomes their reality; their reality is what brings readers into your book and into their lives.

Here’s a sample of character detailing from The Gold Fish Bowl:

She liked the sounds of street cars.  The clacking.  The bells.  The passengers’ complaints.  She wanted to photograph legs – bowed, knobby, exposed, shiny, used.  In the aftermath I sit unwashed, and smell like Tiger Lilies on the wane after summer solstice.  She had written that on the front of a Foodland bill yesterday, and today saw some through the street car window.  She missed them, a sea of orange waves in her mom’s neglected garden.

She got off and walked south on Berkeley to his office and stared at the door.  Dr. M. Cane:  Psychology and Kinetics.  She stared, felt cold, closed her eyes and saw that woman, urine-stained, crouched in a bath tub.  Quickly she reached into her bag, and on the back of the Foodland bill wrote a note to Dr. Cane – another time, Yvonne Conway.  After sticking it in his mailbox she fled.

A man who had stepped out of his car rushed to meet her. “I’m here now.  Someone, where I ate lunch, had an allergic reaction, and I stayed to calm him.  I apolo…”

She fled past him, then north.  He found the note she left.

In a comfortable chair in his office he looked at the paper.  Tiger lilies on the wane after summer solstice?  He drew the paper to his nose, then made a call.  “Hi, this is Dr. Cane.  I apologize about keeping you waiting.  I’ve rescheduled you for Friday at two.  I look forward to meeting you, Ms. Conway.”

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