People Watching


Outtakes 27

People Watching

My hair stylist ran late last Saturday.  He’s really good about keeping on schedule, so I didn’t mind the wait. I sat out in the lobby and read my book until a mom with a cute toddler entered the building. The little one jabbered and explored. She smiled at everyone. Mom gave her some space, but when the little one strayed too far, Mom brought her back to their chairs. I thought how wonderful. Here’s a happy little girl who is being taught about boundaries and limits, but she has enough freedom to test her wings. I really enjoyed watching the little one play.

People watching is a wonderful way for writers to pass time or conduct a little research. I love seeing an older couple walking hand-in-hand. I begin to imagine the progression of the relationship from courtship to the present day. I consider the day they met. Was it love at first sight or more of an I-don’t-think-I-like-you-but-I-want-to-give-you-a-chance situation? What about the wedding? Did they have a simple home ceremony or a lavish affair? What obstacles did they face? We all know relationships aren’t perfect. How did they weather the storms? Are they still in love? I watch him look down at the woman at his side. His eyes shine. He smiles. True, she’s not the girl he married. Her steps are slower. Wrinkles etch her face. But in his eyes, she is still beautiful, and she’s the light of his life.

Watch the young mother shopping for groceries. She consults her list; shuffles through her coupons to see if she can save a few cents on one brand over another. Her hand hovers over the name brand but she selects the store label because it is cheaper. The little one in the cart asks for a treat, but Mom shakes her head. It’s not in the budget. Her brow wrinkles. She checks her wallet; counts the money. It’s not enough to buy the healthy food her family should have, so she compromises.

Scenes like these offer opportunities for the writer to enhance his characterizations. By truly observing the people around him, he can recreate the expressions, mannerisms, and physical attributes to show the reader what is happening to the character instead of stating what is occurring. It brings the reader into the story and creates a bond between the reader and the character. Using his observations tightens the writing and keeps the plot moving. Learning to use what he sees eliminates excessive adverbs and adjectives and makes a cleaner, clearer story.  Give people watching a try and let your imagination soar. The results will be amazing.

Cait Collins