People watching

When you’re building a story, don’t hesitate to populate it with people you’ve seen. In fact, I encourage writers to carry a notebook wherever they go. I do…usually…I forgot it today. That’s part of why I’m writing this post; I want to remember her.

There’s a woman in the coffee shop, sitting on the opposite side of the store, and there’s something about her that inspires questions. I’ve watched her look at every female customer that’s come into the shop, and it isn’t a gentle glance. I think she’s sizing them up.

Why is she doing it?

That’s the first question I’d answer in order to start building a character. There’s a wealth of material right there. I’ll show you.

She evaluates the other women because she’s vain. It is important to her that she’s the most desirable person here. Why? Someone in her past addicted her to that feeling, whether by constant praise, or frequent humiliation.

Because I write stories that are often dark, this woman might have more to her than these things. She’s not just sizing them up for looks, but for how easy they’d be to feed on. This person is a vampire who only preys on women.

That’s a whole story that arose from observing another person’s behavior! I didn’t even touch on what she looks like, or the sound of her voice. Let’s look at those things.

She’s wearing a middle-green sundress, with a sheer bra (or none at all, based on…what can be seen) and visible panty lines. Her shoes are brown, leather, strappy sandals. The dress has a bow in the back to further define the waistline. A necklace, thin gold chain, with a tiny pendant that matches her earrings.

Her hair color is what I call “fried chicken,” a shade between brunette and blonde. He eye color looks hazel.

Her body is interesting, a long torso. If she were two inches shorter, and even thinner than she is, I’d call her a waif.

At a guess, I think she’s 30 or younger, but not any younger than 26.

She’s spoken to the man she’s with a couple of times, and her accent isn’t typical Northern Virginia.

Oh, she just snapped at the man. There’s a temper in there!

Back to her voice, she almost sounds European, but not so much that I’d lay a bet on it. Maybe Canadian. Failing that, she could be from New England, but there’s nothing that would give me an idea on location.

Here’s the point I’d like to make: there is a whole book in any person you see. Observation and creativity are the best tools in a writer’s shed.

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