People Watching

One of the best ways to find inspiration is to people watch. Whether it’s a specific behavior, reaction or interaction watching others is the best way to get a good visual of what people do.

I recently went to a concert and had a heyday watching people. How they act, react and behave in an extreme environment. I don’t do this to criticize how others behave, I do it to learn how others behave. It is a lot of fun to see how different people can be within the same experience. How varied the responses can be.

I love scenarios that push people out of their normal pattern of behavior are great for gathering quirks or ideas for someone. For others its like a magnification of who they are for a brief moment. It doesn’t matter where you observe. the grocery store, the library, a bus, the mall, a hospital, a playground, work, a restaurant anywhere will do. The more out of the normal routine the better such as A concert, the beach, the movies, a carnival, the scene of an accident or even in a panicked crowd. The point is I try to keep my eyes and ears open.

Reacting to situations can be obvious, but for some it’s a moment behaving opposite to how they would normally. This is of course a great opportunity to shake things up or add some spice to a stagnant story.

For example how I would write my reactions into the story:

Amber entered Scott’s office unannounced without permission. She closed the door behind her and crossed her arms. “You’re busted buster.”
“Sorry?”
“You will be. Did you think I wouldn’t notice the chair? Or that my email history was tampered with? I heard you met with my ex roommate. What sort of moron do you take me for?”
“Um…”
“Um? I know about Clifton’s stupid spy program. Your keystrokes were recorded idiot.” She clenched her hands.
“Calm down Amber.”
“No I wont calm down. You went into my computer and stole an email to what? Put doubt in Dales mind? You’re a first class ass. No matter how much you try there is something called a DNA test. If he wants one he can have one. The baby is his. End of story.” She shook her fist at him. “I thought you were my friend Scott, I needed your support not scorn. I needed your friendship not you going behind my back to tear me down.” She stepped toward Scott and pointed aggressively at herself. “I’m terrified, my life is forever changed and all you can do is mourn the fact I no longer worship you.” She spun, opened the door and turned back to face Scott. “Have you always been so cruel? Even to your friends?” She slammed his door as she left a stunned Scott staring after her.

This is an emotionally charged conversation. My instinct would be toward anger and frustration. However I’m not at all like Amber and she’s in a position I can make her erratic. So I thought about how someone more emotionally volatile might react.

Amber slammed Scott’s office door causing him to jump. She cocked her head to the side and crossed her arms. “You’re busted buster.”
“Sorry?”
“You will be. Did you think I wouldn’t notice the chair? Or that my email history was tampered with? I know you met with Susie. What sort of moron do you take me for?”
“Um…” 
She shook her fist.”Um? I know about Clifton’s stupid spy program. Your keystrokes were recorded idiot.” She breathed hard and scowled. 
“Calm down Amber.”
“No I wont calm down. You went into my computer and stole an email to what? Put doubt in Dales mind? You’re a first class ass. No matter how much you try, there is something called a DNA test. If he wants one he can have one. The baby is his. End of story.” Her hands fell to her sides and her anger melted away suddenly. “I thought you were my friend Scott, I needed your support not scorn.” Amber swallowed hard and her breath hitched. “I needed your friendship not you going behind my back to tear me down.” Her blinks pushed tears out between her lashes to her cheeks. She tapped her chest with her fingers. “I’m terrified, my life is forever changed and all you can do is mourn the fact I no longer worship you.” She spun, opened the door and turned back to face Scott. “Have you always been so cruel? Even to your friends?” She swiped at her tears, hurried toward the restroom leaving a stunned Scott staring .

That may not be how I would react, however Scott needed to know his actions have consequences beyond his selfish goal. The repercussions may be more than he bargained for.

Sometimes the tone of a conversation is more important than the content. To convey Amber’s anger and upset with Scott’s betrayal I needed a different reaction from her. To get that I had to think about how someone else might process. The real trick will be to have Scott react in a way I wouldn’t. And don’t worry he wont.

My advice about people watching.
Take notes or jot down things you see people do, when, how and why. When you build a character give them actions and reactions unique to them and thing outside your own boundaries.

-Sheryl

Some posts about moods and emotional conversation

Mood swings

Roller-coaster Conversations

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19 thoughts on “People Watching

  1. OMG I love to people watch ! It is so much fun especially when the person has no clue. I did it a couple of weeks ago in the casino and saw a group of guys who forgot one of his buddies. Watching the buddy go into panic mode was priceless. I mean I shouldnt of laughed but there was nothing at all that I could do. -Bruce

    Liked by 1 person

  2. And that’s why Aside from doing it in real life I watch programs that give me the same experience like Masterchef Australia, The Next Top Model, Project Runway, My Kitchen Rules and the sorts. People and life are my bottomless sources of inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In my work as a counselor, I have the perfect opportunity to observe people; faces, eyes, twitches of the mouth and jaw, body language, and verbal reactions. Do I ever use a specific person? No, but I may incorporate some behavioral habit or tic that I see.

    I love people-watching.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with all of the above, body language in particular (for me) tells the truth as words can be calmed or can lie or tell half truths, your body simply can’t unless you’ve trained it to do so. I love people watching and I agree with you, Sheryl. It’s exceedingly (on occasion) to write a character acting reacting or responding in a manner foreign to myself. I’m not given to violence or evil or to contriving behind others backs, as I’m open straight and honest. You ask I’ll tell you what I really think or feel about a situation, but only when I know your capable of handling the truth. So writing about certain responses or reactions or even evil intent takes a lot of work for me. I so appreciate your words of wisdom.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I find it thrilling to write bad people. They can break all the rules and play outside the sandbox. I just think opposite to how I would do things and voila, a frustrating and rotten character.

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