Examining characters

Have you ever gone to a mall food court, or a busy shopping center, a park on a beautiful Saturday, or even a semi-quiet coffee shop, and just people watched? Watched the moms with their kids, the teenagers, the families,the businessmen and -women, the lone shoppers, etc.?

I used to do it on a regular basis, because I’m one of those creepy people who likes to watch people.

Just kidding. What I actually like doing is studying people’s behavior. I think of them as characters in a story, and I write scenes for them in my head, or my notebook, if I remember it. It’s not something unheard of, though I don’t know many of my writer friends who do it.

I enjoy it. Whenever I went shopping with my mom growing up, we would people watch while we ate lunch or when we needed a break. It was fun to make up stories about people we saw, focusing on what they were wearing, what they were doing, if their kid was doing something interesting or not paying attention, or any little aspect of what we saw.

Some people people watch to trash talk people they don’t know. I prefer to use it as an exercise in using my imagination and studying characters. Have you heard or read quotes that go something like, “I’m a writer. Be careful what you say and do around me. You might find your way into my novel.”

That’s what I’m looking for: inspiration. I want to have real characters in my writing, ones that people can possibly relate to. That’s why I study people around me and possibly eavesdrop on conversations and take everything in that I can. I want to be a better writer.


I encourage everyone out there to find a place they like to go, where they can sit and relax with a coffee-type beverage, a paperback, and/or a notebook. Make sure it’s a place where there’s some people coming and going (though it doesn’t have to be a mad crowd, unless that’s what you’re looking for).

That way, the next time you find yourself, needing some inspiration, needing a break from writing or a refreshing, quiet moment to yourself, you’ll have that place. Then you can try some of those writing prompts that you hear about, like eavesdropping on a person on the phone and filling in the other side of the conversation. Just don’t be creepy about it.

Happy writing.

I'm a lover of writing and books. I graduated from South Dakota State with a master's degree in communications in 2011, the same year I was first published. I'm a wife and mom, and I work in content and digital marketing in South Dakota.

Posted in Intrigues, Writing tips

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