Let's Talk with Lois Winston

August 3, 2023

Characters All Around Us

Years ago, when we purchased our home in New Jersey, I suspected an elderly, infirmed couple on a limited income lived in the dilapidated house across the street. Much to my surprise, after moving in, I discovered the owners were a couple in their late thirties or early forties, with two children, a teenage boy and adolescent girl.

I began to refer to the husband and wife as the Stoop Sitters. They’d camp out on the top step of the landing for hours at a time, either together or individually. Just sitting and smoking, never conversing with each other. Often the husband would remove his shirt and recline supine on the concrete porch, his massive stomach pointing heavenward. He’d remain that way for hours, apparently napping.

When Mr. Stoop Sitter wasn’t sprawled bare-chested on the landing, he’d spend hours mowing his lawn. Except, the “lawn” was a barren patch of packed dirt and weeds. Yet, he’d spend hours walking behind that mower, trimming the nonexistent grass of his extremely small front yard. Back and forth, back and forth, over the same few hundred square feet until the mower ran out of gas. The next day, after refilling the mower, the scene would repeat, continuing each day until the first snowfall.

Just so you know, I’m no voyeur. I worked from home, and my office was in the front of our house. Due to the configuration of the room, my desk was positioned in front of the window that looked out onto the street. It was impossible not to notice the Stoop Sitters.

One day, I was working at my computer when my concentration was broken by a cat fight. Not a cat fight between two cats, though. This was a cat fight between two women. And it was over a man. Mrs. Stoop Sitter was accusing the other woman of trying to steal her husband. The assault was completely verbal. Luckily, no slapping, punching, or hair-pulling ensued. Just lots of accusations and name-calling.

I glanced down the street, expecting to see a camera crew hidden in the bushes of one of the other homes. The scene was right out of a reality TV episode. Eventually, Mrs. Stoop Sitter hurled one last warning, stormed up the steps and entered her house, slamming the door behind her. The other woman turned around and walked down the street. I never saw her again.

They say there’s someone for everyone. What I had observed certainly proved that adage. Mr. Stoop Sitter was no one’s idea of a catch, at least as far as I was concerned, but the scene outside my window had proved otherwise.

Eventually, the Stoop Sitters sold the house to a developer who tore it down and built a McMansion on the postage-size plot of land. A neighbor told me Mr. Stoop Sitter had inherited his parents’ home where he’s probably still stoop-sitting, stoop-napping, and mowing the dirt seventeen years after I last saw him. (And yes, I’m considering using this as part of a future plot. How could I not? After all, I’m a mystery author.)

Have you ever had any interesting neighbors that should wind up as characters in a book? Post a comment for a chance to win a promo code for a free audiobook download of A STITCH TO DIE FOR, the fifth book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series.

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Want to know more about author Lois Winston? Visit her WEBSITE.

photo credit: door image pixabay; bird image dreamstime

Posted in Let's Talk, with Lois Winston • Tags: , , , , |  44 Comments


44 thoughts on “Characters All Around Us

  1. I don’t really have any recollection of neighbors that would make good book characters. I enjoyed reading about yours, though!

    1. Thanks, Maria. If the neighbors aren’t interesting, check out the people at the supermarket or anywhere else. Eavesdropping is also a great way to get ideas.

  2. I had a neighbor when we lived in MA that I would have lived to be a murder victim in a book. He did all his outdoor chores at 7am like mowing, weedwacking, putting up a new fence. I get miserable migraines and I’m in bed suffering and wishing all kinds of things would happen to him just so the noise would stop.

  3. One of my neighbors was the inspiration for the plot of my second book, which takes place in a high-rise similar one where we lived. One night, we heard a commotion in the hall. Upon opening our door, we found our neighbor, naked and drunk, beating on her own front door, begging to be let in. Apparently, there’d been a fight, and her husband had locked her out.

  4. When I was in high school, we had a neighbor who was always watching what happened in the neighborhood. She made the classic snoopy neighbor who always knew what was going on but tried to hide her snoopiness.

  5. We have lots of interesting neighbors! We had one lady that would sunbathe naked in her backyard (but so that people could see her in they walked up the driveway). The mailman and delivery guys got quite a show!

  6. We used to joke that we lived next to the Bundys, the fractious couple from Married with Children, a TV sitcom of umpteen years ago. Anyway, this couple commute to Washington DC to work, an hour’s drive with no traffic, but 2+ hours in rush hour. To beat the crowd, they left home very early, way before any of us got up. The husband would back the car out of their garage, turn the car on to warm it up, then he’d leave the car door open (with the radio blaring!!!) so that he could walk to the end of the drive to collect the newspaper. Meanwhile, the wife would let their yippy dog out. That little guy barked his way all the way out and all the way back inside. To make matters worse, our bedroom window was at the closest point on our property to where all the noise came from. I believe we asked if they could keep the pre-dawn noise to a minimum, but they never changed. The guy would stand in the yard and holler for his wife to “come on!” I think that’s when the dark circles started under my eyes!

    1. Maggie, I had a neighbor who would leave her 3 dogs chained up outside for hours at a time. They’d bark nonstop to be let back into the house. She’d either ignore them or had gone out for hours. We actual called the police once after midnight when the dogs had been left out all night.

  7. I’ve had lots of interesting neighbors, but not interesting enough to put in a book.

  8. I have several interesting neighbors in mind, but they would probably recognize themselves.

  9. Love your dirt mowing neighbor, LOL. We’ve had a few bad neighbors here and there, but most have been pretty good folks. The worst were when we lived in an almost-zero lot line neighborhood. I much prefer my neighbors on the other side of a fence (and I’m sure they feel the same about us!) 🙂

  10. Yes, we had a confrontation with a neighbor that ended up inspiring my book titled Hanging by a Hair. I used our dispute as the opening scenes in the story. One day I’ll use a guy from this new neighborhood. He’s a local fire fighter who gets his exercise pulling a tire around the block. It looks weird if you don’t know the context.

  11. When my wife and I first married, we had a cement front porch that gave us a view up and down the street. We became Mr. & Mrs. Stoop Sitter. Soon we were joined by others living on the block. We would sit and chat most night of the week, except for Saturday and Sunday. Once we moved to a larger home, we no longer had the porch. I still think about how pleasant a way it was to meet all our neighbors.

  12. I live in the country so I don’t have neighbors close to me. When my husband and I would go out to eat, he accused me of spending my time watching the other diners instead of eating. He called me noisy. I guess it’s the writer inside of me.

  13. I have a few neighbors that would make good choices to be in a few books..I’m just glad I’m not that close to them and I have a fence so I don’t have to see their yards..

  14. Not really good enough for a book, but I did have neighbors that didn’t get along because the one had young children who played in their family room which was the room closest to the neighbor’s house. Mom had a loud boisterous voice and her next door neighbor didn’t like it. He didn’t care for the kid’s playing or her voice. She eventually moved to another house a mile away and he found other things to complain about then.

    1. Linda, some people will complain about anything. When my husband was growing up, he had a neighbor who yelled at the kids in the neighborhood for riding their tricycles on the sidewalk in front of her house. That made it into one of my books.

  15. oh but that must have been interesting. I remember my cousin telling me about a family, and this sounds so familiar. He lived in TN at the time. I really dont remember an extra odd neighbor. When I lived on the farm, there was one family that was a bit odd. The oldest was a daughter and she had a bedroom that was right out of hollywood., a round bed on a raised platform, windows in a U shape that looked out on the desert, etc. That in itself was odd, but the daughter was strange also. She was like a princess. Her two brothers were sweet but they were worked hard, along with the father. Every time I went into the house to visit, I got goose bumps and had to stop going.I was in 4-H and rode a horse every where. This was the desert. So everyone rode horses. But not this girl. They were dirty critters. Oh but I loved my horse. Her brothers rode horses. I was never able to stand someone that put others and animals down and looked down their noses at us all

  16. I have a neighbor who you could kill off in one of your books now, I think her name is Alyssa and the Guy and kids that come every so often are mostly quiet. To me that is suspicious you never know what they’re doing but I do so see them coming at all hours of the day… Makes you wonder and definitely would make them good suspects

  17. I get all the crazy/unique characters from cozy mysteries. I enjoy all of the books listed on this blog.

  18. I had a very nasty neighbor who insisted on riding his noisy dirt bike all over my property. After nicely asking him to stop, I called the police. He then came to my house and threatened me. I was about ready to move, anyway, so I sold my house and left.

  19. Your story of the “cat fight” between two women – over a man – is hilarious! I love “people” watching, especially in Las Vegas – there are so many people to watch! I’m living in a mobile home park that only take in residents who are over 50 years old, and yes, there are a number of interesting neighbors who would inspire you, humor you, and add a little spirit to your life!

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