One of my favorite things to do is observe people.
One of my kids once called it stalking but I prefer to call it “character study.” It’s not like I follow them to their homes or anything. I just watch people to capture a mannerism, how they dress or talk.
Years ago when I first decided to try this “writing thing,” I needed to create a character to play foil to my protagonist. She needed to be an older, motherly type. I tried picturing her but with no luck. I didn’t want to use anyone around me for fear the person would recognize him/herself in my novel, so I had to create her from scratch.
There I was. At Penney’s looking at dresses. My three kids in tow, one standing patiently by my side, the other two chasing each other inside the dress racks, when this little, dumpy woman and her younger companion whizzed past me on their way out onto the center court of the mall.
She. Was. Perfect.
I yelled to my kids to follow and took off after her. I watched how she walked. I noted how she was dressed. I mimicked her stride so I would remember it later. I sidled up next to her to listen in on her conversation with her companion.
I shushed my son and leaned an ear toward my model/specimen. She looked at me, one eyebrow hiked. (I loved that. I was SO using that mannerism in Chapter Two.) She turned abruptly, went into the Hallmark Card Shop, and left me standing there out in the open.
My three kids looked at me like I was crazy. “What?”
“Were you stalking that lady?”
“I was not stalking her. I was studying her. Big diff. One day when I am famous, you will understand.”