The Quirky Ladies is a group of eclectic (and dare I say quirky?) ladies who are passionate about writing romantic fiction. All types of romantic fiction...paranormal, fantasy, historical, erotic and contemporary. Bring it on!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

People Watching - An Essential Tool in a Writer's Toolkit

People watching has always been one of my favorite things to do. Observing human behavior can be amusing, confounding, poignant, even irritating. A simple smile or touch, an act of kindness no one else notices (seemingly), or an act of bonehead proportions that makes me realize my friend Joe is right - half the world are jerks. Time for me to put my favorite pair of rose-colored glasses back on, but I digress.

After a lot of thought (I'm a Libra, we weigh all our options forever until ready to take any plunge), I have decided I will likely (see how my scales are still balancing there) purchase a condo or small house this year. I saw five properties in one day. On this rapid fire Sunday everyone I met brought me back to my favorite part of people watching, it's always grist for the mill of character development.

People watching can be so illuminating, especially when you are plotting your current WIP and working on character sketches. This weekend while looking at various properties, I felt like an actor doing Improv. Going from property to property, meeting real estate after real estate agent, reminded me that there are so many different types of people in this world, many of whom do the same job, but approach it from so many varied directions.

There was the long-term real estate agent that scuffed at a neophyte such as myself, forcing me to get my game on and ask real questions so at least I would know what I was doing at the next property I saw.

There was the geeky agent with a nervous laugh, who couldn't look me in the eye, but admitted he was the owner's cousin and they were just throwing him a bone. Even though I knew the property wasn't for me, I still took his card. I guess I threw him a bone too.

There was the bewildered agent struggling to unload an undesirable property, doing her best to keep herself interested, while trying to get me to want to buy it. I stayed for 20 minutes because she reminded me one of my aunts, and I felt bad she had to waste her Sunday in a home that will be on the market for months, I'm sure, since it was over-priced, falling apart and came with creepy neighbors peering through windows to see what was going on next door.

There was the pushy agent who swore he had so many potential buyers that unless I gave him a check today to hold the property, had 20 percent to put down and could move in February, I was wasting his time. I made him show me three condo options. Yes, I did waste his time, not because I couldn't afford the property, but because I would never buy anything from him.

Then at the last property, which I almost didn't bother with because I was tired, I found a real potential property of interest, and a real estate agent who was kind, thoughtful and really wanted to make sure I find the right place for me. She had six other buyers she was showing the property to at the same time, yet found a way to make us all feel welcome. Regardless of what happens with the property I saw, this very nice lady is now my real estate agent.

As writers, we spend a lot of time in our heads. We are all borderline schizophrenics if we are really honest about it - after all, multiple people talk to each other and have whole lives inside our heads. Observing our own behavior, and the behavior of the people we meet is a great way to add nuances to our characters, so they remain as alive in our heads and hearts as they are to our readers on the written page.

Happy People Watching!


Anonymous said...

Too true! That's why all writers should carry a notebook to jot down those great glimpse of perfect character faults and foibles. Also, if you write mysteries, you can write the most obnoxious people you meet into your book and kill them off!

Penelope said...

Dude! What a great short already have it half-written. Love the characters! And at the end, the heroine can fall in love with her new next-door-neighbor. hee hee

Dalton Diaz said...

Tara, kudos for your individual reactions to these agents, especially the pushy one! And Penelope has a good point - what a great storyline! Actually, what a great series. I'm going to email you privately on that one.

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

There is nothing like people watching for inspiration! Even snippets of conversation I overhear can end up in books. Nice post!

Michelle Picard said...

Great post! Truth is stranger than fiction, that's why people watching and easedropping are so amazing. We couldn't make up half of the stuff.