Florida Man. Heralded as the world’s worst superhero, he’s the star of innumerable headlines highlighting the weirdest criminal accomplishments the Sunshine State has to offer.
As a writer, I also find Florida Man invaluable for character-building inspiration, and sometimes he can even give me a fresh story idea. To help me in my daily writing tasks, I’ve even set up a Google alert so I can keep up with his antics on an as-they-happen basis.
Say It with Turtles
Say you’ve got an Everyman kind of character who’s not particularly likable, or maybe even a villain who needs a softening, humanizing quality. I say, make him a turtle lover. Because if you’re nice to turtles, you can’t be all bad.
Take this story, for example, from WPTV in West Palm Beach, in which a man leaps into the water, risking drowning as well as grievous bodily harm via turtle bite—”That would’ve taken his hand right off,” the article quotes an observer—to rescue a sea turtle snagged by a shark-fishing hook:
The story doesn’t tell us much about the rescuer at all, other than his name and that he was a bystander and that he “politely” declined to be interviewed, but really, what more do you need to know? He rescued the turtle.
Have Your Criminal Steal Weird Stuff, Eat, Hang Out for a Bit
WFTS Tampa Bay brings us this fascinating story about a 38-year-old man who broke into a garage, helped himself to a wine cooler from the fridge, drank it, then stole a tiki torch.
Great writing inspiration here. If you’re writing about a criminal character, especially one who’s not aspiring to greatness in that field, you have the chance to make that person really interesting simply by the details you choose. Was Walmart out of the good tiki torches that his wife wanted, and he didn’t want to disappoint her? Did someone steal his tiki torch earlier that week? Maybe he honestly thought this was the guy who took it. And the wine cooler detail is priceless. Any criminal who is calm enough to not only stop and steal alcohol, but to drink it while the crime is still going on is an interesting character I want to read more about.
Apparently, this stop-for-a-snack-while-committing-petty-crime thing isn’t rare in Florida. Take this story from 2016, also from WFTS, in which a guy broke into an apartment in St. Petersburg and stole $35, then stole a frozen pizza, then cooked the pizza in the victim’s microwave and ate it. All this activity left fingerprints everywhere, as you’d expect, thus he was caught. Good writing inspiration. Can you imagine the conversation he’d have with his court-appointed attorney?
Of course, this is Florida we’re talking about; sometimes you don’t get a chance to stop for a snack before you become one, according to this 2015 story from Bay News 9, in which an accused burglar hid from the police in a pond and was killed by an 11-foot alligator.
Let Characters Argue—Over Something Important
Shrimp. Shrimp is a good thing to argue over, as these Florida Men demonstrate in this KSL.com story that, oddly enough, comes from Rexburg, Idaho. The man who was arrested, says the story, was staying in a Motel 6 with “colleagues” when the victim took more than his share of shrimp, and a fight erupted that resulted in the victim needing staples in his head.
Food-related altercations happen often in Florida, so putting one in your fiction writing could be a very interesting and realistic way to enhance character development. For example, people in Florida have also gotten into physical fights over a Burger King bill, cold chicken nuggets, and 7-Eleven nacho cheese, among numerous other culinary issues.
Well, I’m inspired, though not in the lift-humanity-to-a-new-level-of-greatness way. Back to my novel.
Main image credit: GerDukes / Pixabay.com