Sunday, January 25, 2009

People Watching

Are you stuck in the middle of a scene? Do you need a new idea, but it just won't come to you?

Exercise those writing muscles - people watch. You’ll soon become an expert on nonverbal communication. You’ll recognize the movements people make when they are upset, happy, sad, despondent... Before you know it, you’ll be including these actions in your stories. (Show, Don’t Tell) New plot ideas will come to you with ease. (Okay, maybe easier than before.)

One evening my critique partner, Deborah McTiernan, and I ate dinner in a crowded restaurant. At first, we were disappointed when we had to sit at a noisy table near the bar. That soon changed. A young woman and her friends strutted in and sat on the stools near the bartender. The pretty brunette wore a huge diamond engagement ring, but that didn’t stop her from flirting with the man sitting beside her. As the minutes passed, we watched their body language indicate obvious interest in one another. They both turned toward each other on their stools. Their knees were as close as they get without touching. Both leaned in close to hear one another once they struck up a conversation. Deborah and I created our own storyline to go with this couple and each move they made. We both wondered if she would cross the line and leave the bar with the man she’d obviously just met. We knew her final decision when she swiveled back around to face her friends, leaving this poor guy dejected and alone. I kept hoping a prettier woman, without a ring, would sit next to him.

Over the Christmas holiday, Deborah and I ate dinner at another local restaurant. A man waited at least ten minutes for an attractive woman to arrive. We decided they knew each other well since he made no attempt to dress up for their “date.” She sat straight and kept distance between them even when he leaned closer. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know she wasn’t overly thrilled to be with him. Her feelings became quite obvious when he ran his hand over her back and she stiffened. That relationship was on its last leg. I felt sorry for this guy. Remembering the woman at the other restaurant, I began to wonder how many men were feeling rejected.

On the other hand, there were two occasions that warmed my heart. I was walking through a store when I spotted an older couple holding hands. Technically, he was holding her finger. That told me he was a macho guy even at his age. I had to laugh. The other heartwarming moment occurred when I had stopped at a red light. In my rearview mirror, I spotted a young couple. They were probably seventeen or eighteen. I got the impression she was shy. She kept glancing down at the bouquet of flowers in her hands, but she never looked directly at him. Every time she played with a petal, the young man grinned with pride. He knew he’d scored. Young love is so cute. I hope neither one of them ever forget that day. Even if they do, I sincerely doubt they will ever forget each other. As Tim McGraw sings, “The memory of a first love never fades away…And a heart don’t forget something like that.”

The next time you’re out in public, look around, there’s a story just waiting to unfold before your very eyes.

Happy writing,
Tina LaVon


Donna Del Grosso said...

Hi Tina-
I don't people watch- much. I'm always afraid I'm going to get caught! Lots of times I head to the mall to do it but when I get there I invariably am too busy window shopping - I guess it ieasier to watch a mannequin, isn't it?

TinaGerow said...

I LOOOVE people watching and do it everywhere I can :) It's fascinating and I always have a story going on inside my head to go with the action I'm watching unfold.

And besides - free, inspiring, legal entertainment? Who could ask for more ? :)

Tina LaVon said...

I couldn't stop people watching if I wanted to. I think it's part of my personality now. I love all of those touching moments like children playing, people helping each other, or couples in love. The older couples touch my heart.
Life is too short not to appreciate the best in everyone, especially when it's right in front of your eyes.