Following my divorce earlier this year, I joined Match.com, an Internet dating site. While I've met some nice women and have had some interesting dates, I don't plan to share details from my dating adventures.
On the other hand, I do want to share a tip for those of you who struggle with character creation and development: Join Match.com and start reading member profiles.
Sure, you'll find basic info--height, body type, hair color, eye color, and so on--but the best material is contained in the paragraphs of self-desciption each member writes. That's where you learn characterization.
Pick one, any one, and read it closely. Is the author's profile brief and to the point, or does it run for multiple paragraphs? Does the author describe herself, or does she describe her "perfect" match? Does the author write in complete, grammatically correct sentences, or are words misspelled and punctuation applied randomly? Does the author reveal something about past hurts (you may be surprised by the number of women seeking an "honest" man), or about future goals? What's the tone--serious, funny, or sad? What does the author say and what else is implied?
You may not discover the love of your life on Match.com, but you can certainly find enough characters to populate your fiction.
If you're an unmarried writer struggling with characterization in your short stories and novels, try Match.com.
But if you're a married writer, no amount of fast-talking will make your spouse believe that you joined Match.com for "research." And if you can't convince your spouse, you might need to use that membership for more than just research...