To the Extreme
by Cait Collins
I have a lot of respect for my doctor, but I hate taking medications. Medicines and I often do not get along. So whenever the doc suggests a course of treatment, I start researching a holistic approach. I visited one of our local health food stores recently to gather information to discuss with my doctor. I’d had dealings with the folks in this store in the past, so I was really surprised when I encountered the Health Food Maniac.
“I can help you but you have to be willing to change your diet.”
“What do you mean by change my diet?”
She handed me a sheet of paper. Both sides were covered with lists of food to avoid. There was a small section of approved foods. No more junk food, which meant anything she considered unfit for human consumption. The list continued. Soft drinks, chewing gum, cookies, throat lozenges, milk, processed cheese, breath mints, oranges, grapefruit, soup, pasta, white flour, white rice, margarine, corn, and Cool Whip were banned substances.
While I was recovering from the shock of fasting for the remainder of my days, she began she began a campaign of it’s your fault. “So you work 80 hours a week. You don’t have time to cook healthy food.” “It’s your choice, but if you want to get better…” “You’ll need to take this.” She began to place boxes and bottles on the counter.
I tried to make sense of this nonsense. Where was the sweet, compassionate gentleman I worked with before? I picked up the sheet and left the store. Wow, what a witch. I don’t respond well to the “my way or the highway” mentality.
My disgust turned to an idea. The health food nut would make a great character in a novel. I saw so many possibilities. She is so obsessed with her causes she alienates her family and friends. Or she gets careless in her pursuit of her desires and destroys the lives of her neighbors. Or she could be the comic relief character.
Extreme characters can be fun. They can be annoying or terrifying. But they are interesting and they are remembered. Think about some of the way-out folks you’ve met and how their obsessive traits can be written to add sizzle to a story? The people we encounter on a daily basis can be a fantastic tool in our writing arsenals. Do some people watching, write mini character sketches. Keep a file of these wacky folks and use them judiciously. There’s really something special about extreme characters.