People Watching

I enjoy writing characters. I also enjoy watching people so I can make those characters feel like real people. If you’ve never people-watched, try it. Go find a bench in a mall, or sit in a parking lot and watch people enter and exit an establishment. Go to the grocery store an wander.

How do people move? Does Bob walk, or does he meander? Does he saunter? Does he shamble or hobble? Each one of those verbs flavors the simple motion of moving.

To saunter is to walk with purpose, maybe to impress or show off. To shamble is to walk with trouble, maybe as an older man would do. A man that shambles might need a cane, whereas a man that saunters might walk with his hands on his belt buckle.

See how different of an image a verb invokes? “Walk” is a simple verb. It doesn’t have much flavor. It’s not a bad verb, but it’s not a strong verb.

To strengthen your manuscript, use stronger verbs.

I sit at a desk in which people walk in front of. Some people hurry, like they’re late for class, others walk like they’re dreading their destination. Some people slouch, others walk with a tilt in their steps, like their bag is too heavy. Some people are bow-legged. Some people look away when you look at them. Some people look at the ground as they walk, others look around. Some people look sad, others look strung out, some look half-asleep.

Consider how people do things; how would you describe their movement? Their voice? The way the carry themselves?

You can take these observations and translate them into a journal, or to memory if you’re sharp, and when you’re writing a character think back to someone you watched that moved like your character. It’s the little things that people do that can lift your character from the page.

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