Voyuerism. Is it always a bad thing? Do you see the pretty girl pumping gas? No, that’s not me. Do you see the creeper gazing with saliva gathering in the corners of his mouth? No, that’s not me either. I’m the gal behind the camera. (I didn’t take this picture. But, this is how I see the world.)
I’ve learned that if I want to be a better writer, I have to be able to describe what I see. So, I watch. In the picture above, I see a woman who is trying her hardest to not look at the creepy man gazing at her. I see a man who’s gazing at a woman he thinks is out of his league, but he doesn’t have the good manners needed to keep from ogling her.
I also see what could be—as any good voyeur does. I see the small child that might run away from his mother’s hand and dart in front of the creepy guy’s truck. I see a man who would be torn in two if he’d injured a child while daydreaming about a woman who couldn’t give a damn about him. I see a woman pumping gas that has lived through a life of being “the hot chick” and now she can’t even pump gas without somebody scoping her out. Her shoulders are back, so she probably has some kind of confidence, but her stomach is tucked in too, so that could mean that she might be holding her breath until he passes—nervous, fearful even.
Are you getting the picture yet? If you want to write believable stories, you have to look at the big picture. The whole picture. When I’m playing with my characters, I have to think about what they are thinking, how they’d react, what could happen, what will happen…the list is endless. But, I take all of this from things and situations I know. If you want to write really great characters, study people. I wouldn’t suggest being like the guy in the picture and completely creeping on people, but pay attention. Take notes. I always carry a small notebook with me and when I see something interesting I’ll jot it down.
I’ll give you the perfect example. Today, we were walking at the mall on lunch—part of my thin in 2012 plan—and I noticed this woman snatch her child by the arm, literally drag him three feet back to her baby’s stroller and give him a verbal lashing. The kid’s response was one of pure shock and dismay. “You grabbed me!” His voice rose, but he didn’t shout, didn’t really react in any other way except for a small “O” forming on his mouth and his eyes becoming saucers. This tells me that Mom must have been at her limit. He wasn’t accustomed to her dragging on him or he would have had a different reaction—maybe anger or screaming or fear. But, this kid was pretty calm. The woman leaned over and explained why she yanked him across the hall and then they strolled on down the mall. She had patience, even when I knew she had to be angry to have snatched him up like this. Controlled. What was her breaking point? Was it the kid wondering off or the fact that he was touching things?
Oh, the fun of people watching. I can do it for hours and it makes for totally good study for this craft I love so much! Do you people watch? Can you take something you see in everyday life and making a story from it? Do you give them a story like I do? Please share! Oh, and I want to thank Delilah for letting me come play on her blog today. It’s my B-Day, btw!
Rachel Firasek grew up in the south and despite the gentle pace, she harassed life at full steam. Her curiosity about mythology, human nature, and the chemical imbalance we call love led her to writing. Her stories began with macabre war poems and shifted to enchanted fairytales, before she settled on a blending of the two.
Today you’ll find her tucked on a small parcel of land, surrounded by bleating sheep and barking dogs, with her husband and children. She entertains them all with her wacky sense of humor or animated reenactments of bad 80’s dance moves.
She’s intrigued by anything unexplained and seeks the answers to this crazy thing we call life. You can find her where the heart twists the soul and lights the shadows… or at www.rachefirasek.com.
I’m a “eavesdropper” more than voyeur. I have a tendency to listen to people talk around me…and yes, I’ve heard some interesting stuff!
Cynthia, I do this too. I can’t sit in a crowded restaurant and pay attention to whoever is with me. Too many convos going on around me. 🙂
This must be common with writers. I do the same thing. When we are in restaurants, if someone really interests me, my husband asks if I want to join the people I’m watching.
Very good point, Rachel. It’s really about putting the scene together as an observer, not only in the third person, but even in the first person point of view. Happy Birthday!
Happy Birthday! I love to people watch. If I’m having trouble writing about a particular emotion, I tend to go places where that emotion will be prevalent. Anger, frustration– DC metro. Awe and reverence — Arlington Cemetery. I watch the patrons’ facial expressions and hand gestures, body posture etc… So many colorful characters.
I admit it I like to observe~Happy Birthday~ love this I have to use with your permission of course “she harassed life at full steam” that is too cool!
Happy Bday. Hope you are having a great day so far.
I am a total people watcher. I work front desk at a hotel and people amuse me. I see people come in and feel that the hotel staff and the pool are the babysitter. They let there kids run the halls and do what they please. I would never let my kids just run around with no supervision. They are too many weird people in this world to do that.
I do love watching couples and see how they react with each other. I love watching kids with their parents. I hate seeing kids rule their parents. I would not allow my kid to talk like that to me.
Happy Birthday, Rach! You look great at 25. 😆 I watch people, but I listen too. Taking in to create the big picture is important, but so is having the dialogue to fire it up.
Traci, I love your comment. I’m always getting a hand waved in my face when I gawk at strangers. lol
Kate, you are so right and thanks for the birthday love. 🙂
Happy Birthday! I don’t really know that you would classify me as a voyeur but I do like to watch people. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good imagination to be able to make up stories about these people.
Jean, that’s a fantastic application for this. I never thought of doing this. Thanks!!!
Ah, Abigail-Madison, you have my total permission. It’s how I approach live. LOL! The Engine that Could was my mentor growing up. 🙂
HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! I’m the same way. I love people watching! I used to work at a mall and on my breaks I would just sit and watch the people. Thanks for sharing! 🙂
Happy Birthday, Rachel! I love to watch people, but I am also someone who listens to people conversations around me.
Chris, you have the advantage of seeing some of the same types or dynamic of families. That’s the really fun way to observe. You get to see how the differences matter. 🙂
Calisa, I make up the dialogue for what I watch. It’s like my own puppet show, lol. Thanks for coming by! 🙂
Ah, June, that’s okay. It’s still interesting to watch and find out what people will do. 🙂
Amber, thank you, and the mall is the best. I’ve often thought of ditching my day job for retail just so I can watch people. Crazy, huh?
Becky, I think restaurants and movies are best for this! Thanks for coming by! 🙂