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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Heard
Criticize

A bit of the opposite

Sometimes I find myself wanting to soften up harsh characters by making them somewhat likable… somewhat. That doesn’t mean they have to stay that way, or turn good, but a fun side story needs ups and downs too.  Like Yin and Yang everyone has a bit of the opposite in them. This should be true of those who are inherently bad. Perhaps they have a reason that will tug the heartstrings, or a soft spot, maybe they volunteer at homeless shelters or cuddle abandoned puppies at the pound. Whatever the deed may be they can’t be pure evil. Or at least I don’t like everyone being purely rotten to the core.

This can be tricky, if constructed callously they might come across as smug or the action is unbelievable. If I want to make an antagonist have a slight soft side or a reason for the reader to either identify or sympathize with them, I need to assure I write their situation  realistically so it can fall within the story.

I started off using Cal and Sasha primarily as my blog examples, but Amber, Dale and Scott stepped in to be mighty fine side-story antagonists. Just how bad are they?

Lunch couldn’t come fast enough and it came too fast at the same time. Amber solemnly walked to the restaurant with Dale. He prattled on the entire way even as they were seated in a booth. Like a robot, she ordered what she always did. Penne Primavera with chicken.

“Earth to Amber. What’s gotten into you today?”
“Nothing.” She stuffed her mouth with the savory pasta.
“BS. Either you’re in love or you’ve gotten some seriously rotten news.”
She sneered at him. “Really?”
“Ooh did Scott finally give in to your shameless advances and take a dip in the muddied waters?”
She kicked him hard under the table.
“Ow.” He lowered his voice and leaned closer. “What the hell is your problem?”
“You Dale. God I hate you, what the hell was I thinking.”
Dale scowled. “Shut up you love me and it’s just lunch.”
“I’m not talking about lunch Dale.” She stared hard at him.
“What that drunk one-night stand a month or so ago?” He laughed. “Oh I see you’re hung up on me. Got a little taste and you want more?” He grimaced at the second, much harder kick. “Knock it off Amber or you’re stuck with my bill.”
“I’m stuck with more than just your bill Dale.”
He shook his head. “You’re crazy, what the hell are you on about?”
“I’m pregnant.”
“So who’s the chump?” His laugh died as her eyes widened and lips pursed. “No. No way. You hop from bed to bed like a rabbit in heat.”
“I act like a slut Dale, I’m not actually one. You’re the only possibility.”

He threw his napkin down. “Like hell I am. You’ll have to prove it. Wait.” He frowned. “What are you going to do?”

She looked at her plate. “I don’t know.”

He stared in silence a moment then inhaled loudly. “Do I get a say?”
She looked up with her chin lowered. “Do you want a say?”
“You’re sure it’s mine?”
She nodded maintaining eye contact.
“Shit.” He rubbed his chin. “I don’t…” He sighed and tears filled her eyes. “I don’t want you to get rid of it.”
“What?” She wiped her eyes.
“We get along mostly. I’m sure we can figure this out. Why tell me now? Why here?”
“I didn’t plan to. I just.” Amber sniffled. “I have no one else to talk to.”

Dale sat back and looked at her. She looked tired and terrified. She set herself up for the lack of real friends. The ones she has are just as shallow and mean as she is. Or is she? Her raw honesty and willingness to play spiteful games was why he liked her. Did she play along because she was deep down rotten or because she just wanted to play with the cool kids?
“How far?”
She rolled her eyes. “A month and a half duh.”
“You found out today?” Dale picked up his fork and continued eating.
“Yes.”
“Um.” He swallowed his bite. “How does that work exactly? Why not sooner?”
She sighed and closed her eyes. “I missed my last. I didn’t think anything about it sometimes I skip, but.”
“But?” He filled his mouth again.
“I forgot to count and I-” She shrugged.
“You’ve been drinking a lot lately.”
“Not as much as I let on. Just the night I fell and hit my head and the two with Scott after that.” She looked down at her full plate.“I haven’t been feeling well.”
He huffed. “Great. Our kid will be mathematically challenged as well as a compulsive liar.” He reached over and touched her cold hand. “Let’s go for a walk before we head back and after work we can sit and figure this out.”
“I thought you’d be a total jerk about this.”
“Me too.” He dropped enough cash to cover both tabs and tip and led her from the restaurant.

Hmm. Well I guess people aren’t always as we expect. Since none of these people are main characters I don’t need them to shine too brightly one way or another. They have parts in the story, they are the garnish or side dish that makes the rest even better. I wanted Dale who is a nasty, rude all around jerk to have a surprising reaction. Originally I thought to keep him on path and be a jerk to Amber, but this I think was better.

On a smaller scale perhaps I would have them do something kind and random.

My advice about putting a little good in the bad.
I personally think it needs to be there. All good bad guys have a reason, something that drives them to be bad. A good bad guy has a small tender spot for something. If you humanize them, it makes it all that much more conflicting for the readers emotions. They love to hate what they hate to love.

-Sheryl

Other posts

Eyes that carry worlds

Hahaha oops.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Construct

Inviting innuendo

Teasing is fun, it can be light and friendly or mean. No matter what, it should be a part of a story at some point. At least in my opinion, why? Because people tease, they joke and they banter. It is in human nature to want to laugh or improve our environment by introducing joviality.

Fun and light friendly banter is a great way to knit relationships together a bit more but what about flirtatious teasing? Or even sexually charged banter? Between strangers it can be challenging or come across as “tacky pick-ups” or between two pre-sexual relationship it can make for some fun chemistry and tension building. For a sexual couple it can spark a lot more than just a giggle when teasing becomes innuendo.

Anne looked up from the menu at the nurse who swept her off the very feet he helped her on to when she sprained her ankle. Since then, Tony had pursued her like a man plucked out of a historical romance novel.

“How was your day?” Anne set the menu down carefully.

“Pure hell until about ten minutes ago.” Tony looked at her through his extraordinary dark lashes from across the small intimate table setting. “And yours?”

“Oh.” She licked her lips and straightened the fork and knife on the napkin. “Boring and predictable as always.”

“Maybe we can change that.”

She stopped fidgeting and looked at his lips then finally his steel-blue eyes. “It would have to be something very out of the ordinary.”

“I can be unconventional Anne.”

“I bet.” Anne tucked a strand of auburn hair behind her ear. “But it would take a lot to shake my day up.”

“Hmm.” Tony eyed her flushed cheeks as he sipped his water.

….

Valery sighed heavily, plopping her chin in her hand and resting her elbow on the table. He hunger was sated, but not her appetite.

Jackson glanced at her pretty pouty face as she drummed her manicured fingers on her lips. “What’s eating you Val?”

“Nothing.” She smiled through her fingers. “Or rather no one.”

“Naughty woman.”

“I can be.” She giggled and stood to put the plates in the sink.

“You make it too easy.” Jackson got up and stopped in the doorway to the hall.

“I can play hard to get.” Valery’s sultry smile made him chuckle low in his throat.

“So can I.” He looked down then back up as she followed his gaze, her mouth opened as her tongue darted out to wet her lips.

It is easy to make conversation stiff and boring, so I steam it up with some heated banter. From simple flirting to outright suggestion getting the right chemistry is key. Finding the right balance is key, too much and someones going to come across as slutty or creepy. Too little and it might be missed. I make sure I know the characters and work within their parameters.

My advice about innuendo.
Find a good balance and don’t overdo it. Oh and it doesn’t have to lead to sex, they could be interrupted by drama or danger or it could be just plain old-fashioned flirting.

-Sheryl

Other fun posts

Yes… no… maybe?

The joy of pretend world

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Sated