The class I’m teaching on creating great characters is coming to a close but it reminded me of one thing that all writers should do to create realistic characters and that’s people watch.
I’ll be the first to admit that by nature I like to observe people. Maybe it’s my background in psychology (could be I’m just nosey), but it’s served me well for my story creations.
Some fun places to do people watching are in restaurants. You can see how they interact with the people they’re dining with. Watch their hand movements. The way they move their heads. What they do when the other person is talking and they’re simply listening?
Another good spot is in line…I’m talking long lines like waiting at the post office or getting your driver’s license renewed. People who are frustrated act differently. Some people tap their foot, others take out their phones, others just stare into space. I’ve even seen a few people stare at the clock on the wall almost like they’re willing it to move faster.
Watching people in situations where they might be nervous is another good spot. Denist’s or doctor’s office. Waiting to board a plane. Even watch people on a plane and how some people close their eyes and grab the arm on the seat as the plane taxis down the runway.
We might all be different but we’re more alike than you’d think. I always tell my students give your characters similar qualities, fears, whatever, to the reader and you’re half way to forcing them to read on to see what happens to this person who’s a lot like them.
So next time you’re in a line or at a cafe do some people watching and you might find something you can use when you need to create a character for your new story.