(Image by Travel Coffee Book via Stocksnap.io)
I’ve mentioned on my blog before about people watching and how it can help with character building for your novel (30 days, 30 tips), and I’m not the only author who uses the whole people watching technique to make better and more believable characters. Author’s over the years have managed to perfect it as an art, sneakily watching the world go by and recording the days events in their minds and maybe even their trusty notebook, they can even do it whilst doing their normal daily routine e.g. commutes, school runs, shopping or at the gym. Their brains, eyes and ears never switch off and everything around them is a potential story or a potential character they can add to their novels. They absorb all the gossip, events and personal experiences and can make them become part of their world they are creating. (Although if you do use a person you know it’s best practice to change their name and description so as not to offend or be liable for slander, you can be sued for anything now a days).
With people watching the possibilities are exhausting, their is no end to them and it’s not just what people say or do that you can use but also their physical features (Body shape – Apple, Pear, Hourglass, plump, fat, skinny, slim etc) Body language (crossed arms, crossed legs, using hands to express themselves, shrugging) facial expressions (frowning, smiling, eyebrows, nose twitching, baring teeth when angry) and habits (Nail biting, hair twirling and thumb sucking) all of these can help you to see into their personalities but also clothing and how they wear their hair, this helps you to see what trends they like (modern, gothic, punk, sporty, mummy) but can also help to see what social class they belong in, do they have money? No money? Rags or riches?
All of this can help you as a writer envision your character as a real person by using real people to base them on. I myself people watch on the school run whilst I’m stuck in traffic or even in the playground, there is always a variety of people at a school playground, the parents can be hilarious!!! Just remember the golden rule – No real names!!!
Why not give it a go?