Where do you find characters?

I've taken a nearly 30-day hiatus from this blog while I got heavily involved in this writing project. I don't always multitask well, so I felt it was better to streamline the number of pots I was putting my fingers into in any given day.

I even abandoned Twitter for the duration, which was actually kind of a relief.

But that's not what you're here for, is it?
Characters: Where do you find them?  

For today's thought, let's think about Serendipity.  
I often go people-watching.  I go with a purpose – not just to kill time.  Most recently I was in a coffee shop / restaurant, and decided to grab a large coffee and sit for a bit.  There were not many people in there at the time, so I selected a group of older women as my eavesdropping target and sat three tables away.  They had scrunched three tables together, and were chatting away animatedly with gales of laughter and titters of giggles.  This should be good, right?

I estimated that these ladies were in their 50s or so.  For all I knew it was the leftovers of a church prayer breakfast, a community social, or maybe an extended group of long time friends.

I was fully expecting conversations about kids, grandkids, husbands, jobs, the economy, politics, or the weather.  The bits of conversation I got initially were kind of confusing.  I stared out a window so that I wasn't looking at them, letting their words draw pictures for me in the sky, listening to the banter and the occasional giggles.

"Well, when I got busted, it was not like that at all!"

What?  These ladies were comparing arrest records and cop stories!  I listened longer.  There was a brief debate about some court procedures, and then the subject changed to an event they were planning.  I had missed the meat of the conversation.

But it got me thinking, I certainly would not have expected that conversation – which brings me to the power of surprise.  How many times have you written your fiction so that your characters always seem to be doing exactly what you would expect a person to do in that instance?

Real creativity lets you break out of conventional expectations and surprise people.  It should be just as full of surprises as life itself.

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