For my parents' sixtieth wedding anniversary in 2007, we celebrated with a backyard party. Dad put a garter on my mother's ankle. Everyone donned flower leis and there was a bit of champagne as well. It was a small affair--just family. Two years later my mother died and last year my father passed away. They were good people and I was blessed to have them as parents.
Everyone in our family--and in our extended family has been rather loquacious. They have all loved to talk. Any gathering was guaranteed to be boisterous, but fun and always memorable.
While all my parents' words have faded away, there are many things they did that remain embedded in my memory. My father never failed to tip his hat when he passed a church. Dad spent forty years working for the Jersey Journal
and took pains to get the stories right. He was unfailingly honest. Whenever my parents argued, my father bought flowers. He bought flowers for other occasions, too. There was never any doubt that he loved my mother.
When one of the neighbor's children became ill, my mother made a huge batch of cream puffs and gave them to the family. When another neighbor needed a ride to the train station, my mother drove her. If someone was hungry, Mom gave them food. One mentally disabled young man often came to the door for cookies and my parents bought cookies just so they would have them for him.
My parents treated everyone with respect. They were the good guys.
When I'm writing a book, I know there will be times the characters may say something they don't mean. Talk is--after all--cheap. But a protagonist must do the right thing, no matter what. The protagonist will go out of their way to help someone in need. Of course, the antagonist may play along and say the right thing, but he or she will invariably do the wrong thing.
This may sound rather simplistic, but to put it another way a leopard can't change his spots. Most folks behave in a certain manner all the time--like that aging uncle who invariably hands out a lecture on the same topic every time you see him. He's a good man, but he can't remember where he left his car. A detail like that conveys more than pages of description. It doesn't take much to paint an accurate picture readers won't forget.
Actions do speak louder than words, in life and in books. I know the good guys goof up sometimes, but they always learn from their mistakes and when the time comes for the hero or heroine to show their true mettle, they do. I write fiction, but in many ways it's not that far from the truth.