Advanced people watching

Everybody loves people watching. 

And for authors, it’s a central part of research. If you want to create realistic characters that leap off the page and live for themselves, then real life is where you’ll find a rich variety of details, ripe for the picking.

So, find yourself a café with an outdoor table, get yourself a coffee / hot chocolate / orange juice and start taking notes about the following aspects of your every-day passer-by, such as:

How do they walk? Speed, bobbing, weaving, with what demeanour?

What fidgets can you see? How do people fidget with different parts of their body?

Speech styles, patterns and tics – listen to people on the phone or chatting to each other. What do their voices sound like, what tics or habits do they have? Do they continually say ‘man’ ‘right’ or something else? Do they use a lot of questions, or say everything as if it’s unarguable fact?

Clothing – there’s lots of aspects here. Obviously, what clothing do people where, and what impressions does it give about their personality, job, wealth level, attitude to being in public, comfort level? But you can dig deeper and look for accessories that tell a little more detail, a little more depth. Badges, jewellery, shoes, bags – what do these things say about this person’s life experiences?

Relationships – what kinds of gatherings are people in, do any look like unusual partnerships of families?

Try making up stories about where each person has come from and where they’re going. Give yourself a limit of 60 seconds for each person.

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