10 | Stock Characters

A stock character is a stereotypical fictional character in a novel, play, film, or a movie whom audiences recognize from frequent recurrences in a particular literary tradition. The point of the stock character is to move the story along by allowing the audience to already understand the character. - LINK

The characters in commedia dell’arte usually represent fixed social types and stock characters, such as foolish old men, devious servants, or military officers full of false bravado. - LINK

In a crime scene photograph, a cop in the Frye backyard peers at the lower crossbar of a six-foot fence. Past the fence, cater-corner to the yard, looms a house under construction. Its scaffolding is the perfect vantage point for observing the yard. If the cop in the photo had looked up instead of down, he would have seen the scaffolding. He would have found the carpenters installing siding 65 yards away and asked what they saw. Duane’s investigator Jim Blake did. One of those carpenters, Randy Peterson, saw Betty and her killer.

About 10:00 that morning, Randy saw a petite woman, late thirties or maybe forty, with light brown hair like the brick on the house, exit the back door to shake out a mop or rug. He watched her for ten or fifteen seconds. About then, he lost a contact lens. All three carpenters got on the ground and scrabbled around looking for it. When Randy went to his car for his glasses, his dashboard clock said 10:10 or 10:12 a.m.

An hour later, Randy saw a man come out of the back of the Frye garage. Randy saw him only in profile. The man was five-nine or ten and had dark hair cut to the middle of his ear. He wore jeans and an untucked dress shirt and walked past the dog run toward the side gate with a bounce. Not a tired out step, Randy said, but kind of youthful. Not casually—sprightly. Based on his hair, gait, clothing and profile, Randy thought the man was 16 to 19 years old. This was ten or twenty minutes before the DJ on Randy’s radio said it was 11:30 a.m. In 1973, Duane was five-nine and 150 pounds, with light brown hair. He was 48 years old.

The carpenters also saw a pickup truck in front of the Frye house. Randy thought it was grey; the others said green. The sunglasses Randy wore over his contacts accounted for the difference and why he described Betty’s hair and the house’s brick as light brown instead of blond. They would also darken the man’s hair two or three shades. But what made him youthful was his gait. Thirty-five years later, cold case cop Bruce Isaacson had an answer for that. If I’d just beaten my wife to death with a golf club, he said, I might walk with a bounce too.

Can a real person be a stock character?

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