The USA Network's slogan is pretty neat... Characters Welcome. Of course they put emphasis on quirky. In my current book, this is really handy. I've also figured out why reality shows are so successful. We love quirky, real people. Life (virtually) without a script. Edited, of course, but you just never know what stunts people are going to pull. I believe that the characters we create as writers can leap off the page as vividly as the most memorable people we've known...
I think of George Meister, a guy in a nursing home. My family met him when I was about twelve. I remember him as wrinkled, gray, and round with a shelf full of books in his room. He lent me one on the Dead Sea scrolls, not the typical preteen's reading, but then I wasn't the typical pre-teen.
I think of my Great Uncle Enrico, who ran a restaurant for many years in South Hadley, Mass. His wife and three daughters helped him, and he always gave me a candy bar whenever I visited. I called him "The Candy Man" after I'd seen Willy Wonka.
Then there's Jocie, who decided once she retired to go to the Philippines and start an orphanage. Just like that. When I met her while she was on furlough here in the States, I realized that retirement doesn't mean retired, and poor in the world's eyes doesn't mean you can't own beautiful things.
I could go on about the characters who've drifted through and are still in my life (hey, I married a character!), but you get the idea. We see an image of someone without knowing anything about eye color or hair color or height. If you asked me right now what color Andromeda Clark's eyes are, I couldn't tell you. But I know Andi. And it's time I get back to Greenberg, Tennessee and see what trouble she's in right now. After all, there's a murderer at large and she's trying to prove it.
Mount Hermon Update:
I will not apologize if my book seems a bit "fluffy." At Mount Hermon, one speaker held up a copy of USA Today and the New York Times. Which, he said, looks more serious and educated and deep? (NYT, duh.) Which, he said, has won the most awards for its journalism? (USAT--huh?). It may look fluffy with its brightly-colored graphics, but there's substance inside. Sounds good to me!