After reading my novel ‘Dead Medium’, many people have asked me just what hat I pull my characters out of to make them feel so real and lifelike.
“Peter has a brilliant voice as and author and he brought each character to life from the moment they stepped onto the page”. Amazon reviewer -Future Slayer Girl.
“Colourful characters, brilliant one-liners and an imaginative and captivating story”. Amazon reviewer – Busby.
“The plot thickens and you are taken into a unique story filled with memorable characters and lots of humor”. Amazon reviewer – Donna Johnson.
“This is a very entertaining and original story peopled with such well-drawn characters, I felt like I got to know them personally”. Amazon reviewer – DragonOne.
“This is a fun read where the characters came to life along with their surroundings”. Amazon reviewer – Sheryl.
I always tell them that I take inspiration from day to day life and, when you drive a bus through London, there is plenty of life to choose from. In an attempt to expand of this answer I have written this article about the pros & cons of being a writing bus driver.
I consider myself lucky in many respects. I have a certain advantage as I perform a frontline job in such a diverse city. I find inspiration in the quirkiness of the various people who I meet on a day to day basis. Take for example “The Stickman”. A man in his fifties who always boards the bus with a thickly varnished, wooden walking stick. He is generally late to the bus stop and I have to wait while he slowly hobbles up to the bus. Now you may consider this to be nothing remarkable, however, on a Monday and Tuesday he holds the stick in his left hand and favours his left leg. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday he holds it with his right hand and favours his right leg. I have yet to see him board the bus at all during a weekend. However, I often see him with both his legs pumping away, as if he were treading grapes, on his old Raleigh Arena, dressed in bright yellow, skin tight lycra shorts and matching t-shirt. Now I can’t help but think that there is a story in there somewhere. Even though I have yet to hear him utter a single word, he has given me a firm foundation to a great character. Now all I need to do is build on that and “Grizzly Adams” would make for an interesting merge. Grizzly has a big, black beard and a mop of thick, curly, black hair. He boards the bus in the late morning and also in the early afternoon, usually just before the local schools kick out and the bus becomes like a moving playground. Grizzly is normally on the bus for between 20 and 30 minutes and he spends this time telling anyone he can get to listen about the time he spent as a minicab driver.
“You wouldn’t believe who used to get into my cab!” I have often found myself silently agreeing with his assumption. He would then ramble on about all the celebrities that had climbed into his taxi cab and also the strange and unlikely places from which he had to pick them up from. My personal favourite yarn he often strings is about how he was once propositioned by an Egyptian princess, due to his striking good looks and irresistible charm. I myself cannot comment on the ascetic quality of his face as it is always covered by thick, black hair. As for his charm, however, he does have a knack for getting people to listen to him and on some days he attracts quite a crowd.
Vic is a relatively new patron of my bus, having only been travelling on my particular route for about two months. For most of the first month he wore a neck brace. He was obviously suffering from some kind of injury the cause of which is a mystery to me. Vic always wears the same brown tweed jacket with leather patches on the elbows. His trousers, however, vary often and they are always of a colour that not only fails to match his jacket but seem to dramatically clash. For example: his baby blue chinos or his bright orange polyester slacks, which have such sharp creases running down the front that, if he were to walk through an overgrown field, he’d end up cutting the grass with each and every stride. Each and every time Vic boards my bus he is in mid conversation on his mobile phone. He swipes his pass and barely registers my existence before taking a seat at the back of the bus where he continues with his telephone conversation. Now Vic doesn’t have a quiet voice; it bellows down the bus like a gust of strong wind and is generally littered with profanities. I have often asked him to curb his language, especially when there were children on board, but all my requests are usually met by various obscene hand gestures. Now I only started referring to this particular gentleman as Vic after I first saw him minus his neck brace and first set eyes on his dog collar.
The most difficult setback to bus driving, where writing is concerned, is the shift work. Instead of setting a regular time to sit back in peace and quiet to put pen to paper I have to fit it in whenever and wherever I can. I am never without a notebook and a pen and I try my best to keep my little 10” net-book handy whenever possible. The stress levels can also cause a hindrance and be pretty much counter productive. After a particularly difficult run my mind can lock up and my brain ends up feeling like a clenched fist. Not a great deal of writing takes place at times like these but, if it does, it tends to end up as no more than a penned rant.
All in all, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t want to find myself in a position where I could write full time and give up bus driving permanently. Writing for a living is my dream and I am constantly striving to make that dream come true. However, I am certain that I would miss the inspiration I gain through working with life buzzing around me and I would probably ride few buses whenever I felt in need of a muse.
“I’ll See You Out There!”
If you have a funny story about buses or a quirky character that you frequently cross paths with I would love to hear about it. If you suspect that you yourself might be either The Stickman, Grizzly or Vic I would be thrilled to hear from you. You may have even unknowingly photographed me at one time or another, I am always being dazzled by the flash of a camera as I drive down the road.
Out of the hundreds of people who board my bus on a day to day basis, any one of them could be you.
All the best. The dreamer of words and worlds (and the driver of buses).
“I’ll see you out there!”