We’ve all done it to some extent, and some are more serious about it than others. I’m talking about people watching. Just everyday out in the world people watching, not peeking through people’s windows kind of people watching. I find myself doing it fairly often when I’m out and about. Usually a snippet of conversation or the way a person is dressed will snag my attention. Plus, it’s interesting to break out of my own head and see how other people act and interact with the world around them. Some people inspire me, like when I see strangers be kind to each other. Other people, not so much, like the cigarette smoking mommy with the baby on her hip screaming at her other four kids to “Hurry up and gitcher lil’ asses over here before I beatchu!”
On a personal level, one is amazing, and one is disgusting. From a writing perspective though, either scenario is fascinating. I’ve based more than one character on a person or an amalgamation of people I’ve seen out in the world. Sometimes, when I’m stuck for an idea, just going to do a little people watching helps a lot. Some of the best places for people watching are 1) Airports. So many people from so many different places and there’s usually a high level of stress there which changes the way people interact with each other. 2) Playgrounds. Seeing how children interact with each other is always fascinating and often very funny. 3) Any kind of public transportation. I used to ride the D.C. Metro system a lot for work and wow, great people watching there.
There is a certain art to people watching though. After all, not many people WANT to be observed like lab rats, and would probably behave quite differently if they knew they were being watched. So you have to be discreet. Here’s an article that discusses some good methods for people watching, without being totally creepy.
So do you people watch? For your writing or just for fun? What have some of your experiences been? What are some of the best places you’ve noticed for people watching?