Tuesday, 3 January 2017

People Watching

I'm a real fan of people watching, it's a fabulous thing to do over a coffee and cake when you have some time to spare. As a writer I think it's important for me to notice everything that goes on around me. After all there may be a story idea lurking or a perfect character to build a tale around. So I make no apologies for keeping tabs on the folk I see while going about my day.

One memorable encounter was while I was having a cup of tea and some cake inn Oxford. I spotted a rather striking chap with a most impressive set of dreads. I'm a sucker for dreadlocks so my eye was drawn to him immediately. He was sat in the churchyard next door to the coffee shop so I couldn't hear what was being said but I was very aware of his body language. He was waving his hands and arms around most expressively, jumping about in his seat and was really very animated. His locks were waving and swaying down his back as I watched him. The woman he was with was very slim with long blonde hair pulled back in a loose pony tail. She was wearing a multi-coloured jacket and had a hippyish look. She sat very still and her eyes were locked on her phone the whole time. I was fascinated by their interplay; he was so animated and alive and she was static and detached. After a while he stilled and sipped his drink. She then looked up and spoke a few words to him; they then stood up and left the churchyard hand in hand.

I wondered about their relationship. He seemed so alive and she seemed so apart, an odd couple indeed. I wondered what he could have been saying. It was so animated and yet she wasn't pulled in to the conversation. Maybe she had heard it all before, who knows? Maybe he's the sort who rambles on and on and she just tunes him out when he's on a roll. But they fascinated me and I have continued to think about the dynamic between them ever since. Perhaps they will crop up in a story some day but I'm not sure from whose point of view I'd write it.

I have many of these observations in my writer's notebook. I sit quietly an watch, jotting down what I see or what I imagine. It's a game I used to play when I was at college, inventing lives for random people I saw, giving them names and back stories. Little did I know that I was laying the foundations for future stories I would write. It is true that nothing is ever wasted when you are a writer. Everyone you meet is a potential character, every situation a potential plot, every venue a potential setting. I do wonder I people worry I am plotting how to include them in a story!

So next time you spot someone scribbling away in a coffee shop be aware of what you are doing; it might be me looking for a  character who will turn into a right rotter...


  1. I read this post with absolute fascination. I love people watching and imagining who they might be. It's basically all I do at the gym. Ive just tried writing a post about someone I see there and everything I imagine about them! Your description of the couple is so vivid though, I'd love to be able to achieve that.

    1. Thank you so much for that lovely compliment. I often wonder if other people in coffee shops, gyms and libraries are indulging in a little people watching. I think there are lots of us out there!