Thursday, February 27, 2014

Careful Or You'll End Up In My Novel

That's what my T-shirt reads that was given me by my nieces who also came up with a pair of sweatshirts for my husband and I that are Christmas themed. One says "Nice", the other "Naughty." While my T-shirt warns those around me to be wary of my observing them, I usually don't wear it when I am truly people watching. And people watching helps develop my characters.

Sitting in a restaurant the other night, I noticed two women sharing a plated dinner (the servings were huge so I could understand why). They didn't appear to be a couple, maybe just girlfriends out for dinner. Then I heard one say something about Dad being worried and I guessed sisters. The one who looked just a bit younger was listening to the other and in her body language, I could tell she was nervous or uptight about something. I wondered why I perceived that.

I studied them a bit more and decided that the young blonde was sitting a bit stiffly with her hands stuck between her knees under the table as if her hands might give away her nerves. She was also slightly hunched at the shoulder. Perhaps it was the posture of one who's been lectured by an older sibling before. I could not detect any animosity in her expression. Either she was good at hiding it or there was none--just nerves about what was being revealed.

How would I put this into words if I needed to? I began to run the words in my head that fit my observations. Looking for more things that would convey to a reader what I was observing. After that exercise,  I could begin to project all sorts of ideas of what they could be talking about. Plotting a step mother's demise? Working for two different government agencies and suddenly discovering a cover up in one? Or maybe one was planning a wedding for the other?

Please don't tell my husband that I'm working while we're out to dinner. He thinks I'm just enjoying a night out--and I am. Just not in the same way he might think I am.

Do you people watch to gain insights into characters? There is lots to be gleaned.

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