Like the kitten watching the outside world through the window, most of us spend a fair amount of time “people watching”. There is no lack of entertainment as we go throughout our day, as human beings, we seem to love drama. Some like to be the center of drama, others like to watch from the side lines.
As a writer it is not only second nature to watch and take mental notes on the activities around us. The question is always there in the back of our minds; how can I use this in my writing?
Simple things like watching a bird splash in the bird bath, or the way a strong wind can pick up a leaf and carry it on a journey can catch our attention and help set a scene in our minds. The way that people interact with each other receive special scrutiny, as every detail is filed away for future use. The hand movements as someone talks, the tone of voice, the stance of those talking, any visual habits; these are all important for the writer to remember.
Detail take on special meanings for the writer as well. Are they wearing winter or summer clothes? Is the weather gloomy or sunny? Is it a city location or the suburbs? Are they angry or happy? Is everyone included in the scene, or are there some who are more background characters.
After observing for a while, writers may actually re-write the scene in their minds to fit the plot of the book they may be currently working on. For some, a simple observation of a family outing in a park can turn into a page from a Where’s Waldo story. That argument you’re having with your girlfriend? There is no telling how that will play out on the pages of a writers manual script. A mother dragging her child home when he doesn’t want to leave could easily be written as a kidnapping. A young women kissing the man next to her on the park bench could be about an elicit affair between co-workers. The grandmother pruning in her garden could be a women harvesting hemlock to kill off her husband for one too many nights of loud snoring. Simple, everyday actions that are viewed through the eyes of a writer can take on a new meaning altogether.
So, just remember that person watching you from afar may not just be watching…they may be creating their next novel in their minds.