This morning, my husband and I got up fairly early (for me, at least) and went to breakfast at a local IHOP. Great food. And it allowed me to “people watch”.
Writers need to be students of what I call the “little things” in life. How someone talks, walks, interacts, can tell you a lot about them. This is how you build your ability to invent three-dimensional characters; people your readers can fall in love or hate with, people you could run into in a restaurant at the beginning of a long day.
So what little things did I take notice of?
First, an older couple next to our table, sitting in a booth, had a young boy with them. The boy was maybe 5 to 6 years old, doing the puzzles on the IHOP place-mat, and hopping from one parent to the other for help. Dad got the number questions, Mom got the word questions. The little thing I took note of? the boy being respectful to his Mom, and snarky with his dad. What that told me about the family dynamic will filter into my writing someday.
Second, the interactions or lack of them between a young family behind us that I couldn’t see, and the obviously fairly young baby gave my ears a work out. Why? The baby would cry or yell to get their attention and they ignored the baby. Completely. How do I know this? Because I am a Mom. And I know the silence that finally comes when yelling doesn’t work. After the baby stopped yelling, I heard the Dad say, “What do you want, sweetie?”
Third, by paying attention the rest of the morning I can tell you that an elderly couple we saw at Bedner’s Fresh Farm Market are still in love with each other. Why? This one’s easy. She took his hand to help him down a ramp and he smiled at her with that sexy twinkle that lovers get. She smiled back.
As a writer, you can give your fictional characters those touches of the “little things” that will inform your reader as to their ethics, their character, and what they might do in any given situation. You can make your fictional people so real that your readers want to meet them.
So watch your world go by you, but pay attention. Those little things you notice might just make you a writer people love to read.