For writing inspiration, I’ve always got my eyes and ears on high alert for new ideas, new characters, and unique plots. Often, I develop characters for my novels based on people from my past as well as from people I meet or come across during the day. But it’s the characters I discover subtly that keep my creative juices flowing.

I am attracted to and curious about eccentric personalities—whether virtuous or devious. Personalities that stand out from the crowd, that most people would find annoying, abhorrent or both. Characters that often get on your nerves for one reason or another. Those are the ones I want to grasp onto, embellish a bit and then put into my novels.

Speaking of subtlety, I don’t believe in coincidences; I trust serendipity. I believe serendipitous occurrences are divinely inspired, but one needs to recognize them as such to be influenced by them. Indeed, many times during the day, I will read a word in a book or on a website or type a word into a document or an email and then immediately hear the same word on radio or television. I’m sure I’m not the only one this happens to, but I wonder if this is happenstance or a subtle, divine message? 

Subtle Notifications

A more concise example of serendipity happened to me this week while I was waiting for text responses from clients. Hearing the distinctive sound of a text message being sent, I glanced down at my mobile phone and quickly ascertained it wasn’t from anyone I was expecting but rather from an unknown number.

It read:

“Hi how are you doing? Do you have time to have dinner together tomorrow?”

My first reaction was I’d forgotten I had made plans with a friend, likely a friend who had been in Europe with her daughter for two weeks. But a friend would be more personal and probably address me by name. This text was highly impersonal. Plus, the area code was a Michigan exchange, and I have no close friends living in that state. Was this person male or female? Was it auto generated by a scammer in another country? Or, had this person merely punched in the wrong number, off by one digit?

Curious, I replied, “Hi. Who is this?”

“Hello! It’s Reina. I’m currently on a short trip to Cali and I’d like to invite you to dinner tomorrow.”

OK, I thought. This is weird. I don’t know anyone by that name and it’s beginning to sound like a con. Still, I thought “Reina” had the wrong number, so I replied, “Thank you but I’m blanking on your name and phone number.”

Persistent, Reina immediately wrote back, “I know, I asked my friend for your number. But I don’t know if you still remember me.”

Now I’m convinced it’s a scam—claiming to have asked her “friend” for my number—and whoever is doing this most likely wants what every scammer wants: money. 

“Maybe I should send a photo to refresh your memory  This makes me embarrassed.

Well, the photo “Reina” sent was of a young woman of Asian descent, but it also looked fake and possibly AI-generated. At least I should be grateful she was fully clothed. 

“Ring a bell?” Reina added.

“No, sorry.”

“Ah…are you Jessica?” 

“No. I had a feeling you had the wrong number.”

“Oh…I’m so sorry! I just realized I pressed the wrong number with my fat finger…lol…It’s embarrassing  Thank you for your reply. You are very friendly.”

Fat finger? There was nothing fat about this “gal.” Well, maybe her bank account was fat after successful scams, and I was not going to add to it. Friendly? Yes, I can be quite friendly in most situations, but this one clearly went too far because I kept responding. Yes, I am a curious person and I love solving puzzles. But I possess safeguards that warn me of danger. I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, but once she said “Jessica,” my spidey-sense told me she’s on a fishing expedition.  

Reina went on to invite me to dinner if I ever found myself in Toronto because I was “so kind.” Flattery rarely works on me—unless it’s coming from my husband or son—and her smooth-talking texts were not going to sucker me into believing her shenanigans.

New Character Born

Indeed, my encounter with Reina was no coincidence. It was fortuitous. For what it’s worth, I came away from this brief encounter with a fresh idea for a new novel. I haven’t quite determined what the plot will be, but it will include a nefarious, sweet-talking con artist out to conquer the weak-minded using AI tools. 

There may be a sucker born every minute, but in my case, there’s a character hidden in every situation, just waiting to be created and inserted into a novel.