As a writer, one must be able to observe and listen to the world around them. We need to know how to write, to describe the sounds of a brook that passes over pebbles that shift, and roll with each changing current, rising or falling water level. Just as we need to know how to construct, in writing, the appropriate intonation and demeanor of a casual conversation and interaction between two friends. Which leads me to my point.
One of my favorite things to do is to watch people as they come and go. I sit in an open area, often times on a bench, and take mental notes of the details and nuances of the folks passing by. Sometimes I’ll have a notepad with me, so that I can write down any important detail that seems like it would be a worthy addition to my literary toolbox. But sometimes, I won’t do this at all. Rather, I’ll observe and test my creative prowess by creating stories for the passersby.
This exercise consists of one very important rule. Which is, the details I create must be believable and grounded in reality. Otherwise, it might get too out of hand, or too easily manipulated. For instance, a young man I observe in the local shopping mall could very well be an incognito ninja assassin on a mission to destroy the young girl behind the Victoria’s Secret counter who isn’t really a girl at all but a transformed Super Sucker Slug, series 11, from planet Bargeron, who has been hired to kill every living prepubescent female on planet earth. And then chaos ensues. Now, I suppose I really could go in that direction, but I think for this exercise, the creations that are grounded in reality are a bit more challenging.
So I sit and create stories in my head. The elderly woman with the pink Jamba Juice. She’s just lost her husband to liver cancer. He wasn’t a drinker. Nor was he a smoker. In fact, Harold was widely known to be a genuinely spectacular human being. At least his friends and family thought so. Actually, everyone thought so. Except his wife. To Mary, Harold was too genuine, too nice. He never raised his voice. He never failed to do what the most chivalrous had always done. For everyone but his wife, Harold was the perfect catch. But I suppose this is why the elderly woman with the pink Jamba Juice breathes a bit easier nowadays.
Next time you’re in a public place, sit down for twenty minutes and try it out. It’s fun, challenging, and has potential to be great literary fodder.
Shamus and Alasdair hit Flagstaff, AZ. Here, Shamus gives a magic show to group of retired, assisted living seniors. Alasdair as the apprentice. Then something very creepy occurs.