Do you truly observe and perhaps register it as being significant or do you, as I do many times, merely see and take no notice?
The following are suggestions for anyone, but especially writers who like to bring their characters to life on the page.
Take a notebook & pen (or laptop) to a public place & people-watch, only don’t be too obvious or you could get arrested.
A mall is an easy place to find a comfortable, out of the way place to write. Or if you have time on your hands in an airport—waiting for your next flight—put that time to good use.
Observe & make notes on choice of clothing, hairstyles, jewelry, tattoos, and don’t forget the shoes. You can tell a lot about a person by their shoes. Mine may be scuffed and run-down at the heel—I have noticed from old photos that my shoes have been this way since childhood—while my husband’s shine like he just left a professional shoeshine stand.
By the way, ladies, do you notice the shoes on either side of you when you visit a restroom or am I the crazy one?
And then there was a visiting minister at our church whose loafers looked older than he was, but man could he preach. We overlooked his shoddy shoes and his Hawaiian shirt because he was truly a man of God. So first impressions are not always reliable.
Notice how people walk. Does a young man swagger down the mall? Does an elderly woman walk with a limp? What about gestures? Is a teenaged boy always flipping his hair out of his eyes? Look for attitude. It may be evident in a scowl, a frown, or stiff shoulders.
If the mall is not your cup of tea, visit any café or coffee shop. What about a Waffle House? I think it is like a crossroads of America. My husband, the particular one, loves to stop there. We don’t very often because I think everything smells and tastes like grease.
Once, an older woman dressed in a long fur coat with teased blond hair and tons of jewelry sat on a Waffle House bar stool next to a tiny, young woman dressed like a lumberjack, and a very dirty one at that. She drove an eighteen-wheeler and had gotten her rig stuck in a muddy turn-around near the restaurant. A wrecker was coming, but it could be awhile. So the two women talked and talked and shared family photos and talked some more. This is plain fun, folks.
Future Blog: Dialogue. Learning to listen.