Remember Writers Helping Writers?
Well, here’s the last of my #WHW contributions. Hope you’ll welcome
Driving Characteristics: People Watching
by Katie Dunn
Writers write. It’s what we do. But to be able to write real and believable characters, we need to have an understanding of those minute characteristics that people display-usually subconsciously-on a physical level. That usually involves people watching. If you’re anything like me, it’s an uncomfortable habit. Sitting in one place, staring at people wigs me out on a personal level. Mainly because I can’t stand the idea of someone doing it to me. It’s part of being a writer though, so I do it. At the store, at the park, in the waiting room of a doctor’s office… Anytime I’m in public, I MAKE myself people watch.
The other day, I was sitting at the stop light of the main intersection of my town watching the people in other cars as they waited for the light to turn or drove past, and I realized I don’t mind people watching when I’m in the car. Right after that realization came another: Everyone has a different driving personality, and I wondered how I could translate those characteristics into the characters in my books?
Now, if you write historical fiction where driving involves straps, harnesses, and horses, then People Watching in Cars is probably not going to help you, but if you write ANYTHING ELSE, this might be something you want to get involved in. Even if you write sci-fi where people drive spaceships instead of cars, this is a useful exercise. I anticipate that driving habits will translate into any vehicle in the future.
But Katie, HOW am I supposed to watch people while driving around in a car? Isn’t that dangerous?
Don’t worry. I’ve got it all worked out and it’s as safe as people watching anywhere else.
- Find the busiest intersection in your area, preferably with a gas station or restaurant.
- Park in the gas station or restaurant with your car (and yourself) pointed directly at the intersection.
- Try to find a place that allows easy viewing all around. Use of your mirrors is highly recommended =)
- Be sure to have a note pad or recording device so that you can take notes.
- Sit. Watch. Take notes.
I’ve done this several times since I had the idea and it’s been a great exercise in people watching. Not only do I learn more about the habits of drivers, but with a gas station and restaurant nearby, I have a chance to watch people as they move about their business without feeling odd about it. I’m in my car, after all! I honestly don’t know why being in the car makes it easier to people watch, but I’m glad it does. Now, go out, find your intersection, and watch! watch! watch!
Katie Dunn is an avid reader, writer of Young Adult fiction, a mom to two tornadoes that resemble a seven and five year old, and pet to a tuxedo cat named Oz. If she’s not reading, writing, or getting Oz out of a tree, she’s staring out the window daydreaming about anything and everything while doing dishes.
Katie blogs at Writing, Reading, and Life, spouts stuff on Twitter, and posts on Facebook.
LETS’ CELEBRATE THE SMALL THINGS!
Today I’m celebrating another day with the sun coming up over the trees. I’m celebrating being able to see it, to feel its warmth and to walk down the familiar trail it lights.
What are you celebrating?