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Friday, September 11, 2009

Mingle, People, Mingle

This is not a book review. I haven't even read this book, so I don't know anything about it. But how could I resist the cover? It is just too perfect for today's topic. As writers, we tend to spend much time alone. We spend hours and hours without talking to a single other human being. I think most of us enjoy being alone, or we wouldn't be writers. The problem is, though, if we don't interact with people, how can we write about them? If we don't see the world around us, how can we describe it? I think it is important to get out of the house and interact with people and our surroundings as much as possible. Nothing is more inspiring than real life. I'm a people watcher. (My husband calls it staring, but what does he know?) I get a lot of great ideas from being out around people. For example, one of my minor characters is a boisterous, southern gentlemen who wears a big cowboy hat. I saw a man exactly like this at a restaurant when I was writing my first book, and I knew I had to use him as a character. I paid attention to his mannerisms and was able to transfer that to my character. He has a very small role in my ms, but he is an interesting fellow. I'm not the best at setting description. I have to have a clear image of a place in my mind in order to describe it. For this reason, it's important for me to experience many different types of settings. For example, tonight, I'm going to the high school football game because my daughter will be performing with the dance team at halftime. Of course I'm looking forward to seeing her performance, but I'm also looking at it as a research opportunity. I have several scenes set at high school football games. When I'm there tonight, I'm going to take everything in and hope to come home and transfer those images to paper. In what ways does real life inspire you? Award Time! The Silver Shoe of Sincerity Award is intended for someone who shows absolute sincerity in their blog interaction. To find out more click here. The recipient can pass it on, but does not have to. This week's recipient is Stephanie Faris of Steph in the City. I've noticed her comments on so many bloggers' posts. They are sincere and well thought out. I'm amazed at her ability to follow so many blogs and comment on all of them. If you don't already follow her, go check out her blog. I'd also like to thank Kim over at Land of Mama Grits for honoring me with the Over the Top Award. I'm flattered. Thanks for thinking of me. Have a great weekend everyone!

44 comments:

Shelli said...

congrads :)

Faith said...

How fun that your daughter is performing tonight! All the best to her :)

I find that my best ideas come from real life in one way or another. Lately I've been reading the newspaper, scissors in hand, and cutting out stories that I think could inspire new plots in the future.

As for interacting with others, I'm not really a social butterfly AT ALL (socializing exhausts me), but I've met plenty of diverse personalities within my dance community... and I have no doubt a number of them will be showing up in my next WIP :)

I think I'm a people watcher too, in some ways... or maybe a people listener. When I'm at the local cafe writing, sometimes I have to stop writing because the conversation next to me is interesting... not that I'm listening in to be a jerk, but because it's story fodder! Maybe that makes me strange. But I put it up there with 'staring at people' as your husband calls it!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

I've heard it said that a true writer is always doing research. And I believe it. Because when I'm out, I'm always watching too, looking or new quirks, mannerisms, circumstances, spaces that can be used in a future story. My mind is like a tiny computer, logging it all. Isn't it so much fun to be a writer!!!

Janna Qualman said...

Congrats on your award! To Stephanie, too.

Love your cowboy! I can see him now. And I'm a people watcher, too. Sometimes I feel guilty over it, until I realize it's research, like you said. Can't not do it!

Have a great weekend, LW!

Suzanne said...

Got to journey to write a journey!

Amen.

Patti said...

I agree. I'm kind of a loner and prefer to be on my own, but people watching is the best for finding extreme characters. I have a hard time with describing settings, so that's a good idea to try to immerse yourself in it.

Karen said...

I agree with you. Getting out there and seeing places and being around people is really helpful.

I love people watching. I'll go down to the mall or walk along the pier or whatever I can do to watch people. I don't often create characters based on total strangers, but those strangers definitely inspire mannerisms, speech, etc.

And I think Stephanie Faris is a great choice for your Silver Shoe Award! She's awesome!

Natalie Bahm said...

I think people watching is probably a universal trait among writers (or at least most of us). I think my best characters are compilations of several people (including friends, family, acquaintances, and people I just see around).

Strange Fiction said...

I spend a lot of time alone but people watching is great for picking up character ideas. Last time I was stuck waiting for hours in a hospital, I sat in the lobby and took notes on all the staff for a scene I was writing. :) Congrats LW and Stephanie! And Go Golden Girl!

L. T. Host said...

I have so much to learn, haha. I guess I never really thought about watching other people for inspiration of my own characters. I'll have to give it a shot!

A lot of my inspiration for my contemporary stuff comes from news articles or passing thoughts while out and about. Inspiration for my fantasy stuff comes from old legends, folktales, and mythology-- and good old- fashioned dreams/ imagination.

Cindy said...

Congrats on the award. I think there's probably something from each day that we can use in our stories. It's so important to get out and live life. It makes fiction more realistic!

Girl in My Own World said...

I totally agree with this. I find that when I get more that I am inspired to write. I would say that almost all life experiences can inspire some sort of writing! Congrats on your award! :o)

Rae said...

The best stories are all around us. Human nature provides a wealth of ideas. I love to people watch too.

Novice Writer Anonymous said...

Congrats to you both! As for the mingling, real world stuff, I ditto what you've said. Even though I really need to be better about such things.

Dominique said...

Congrats.

Very interesting post. I like to think of new things I'm experiencing as research. Also, reminding myself that I might want to use this memory later, I find, makes me more open to new things and more likely to take note of my surroundings.

A note about high school football games, if you live anywhere where it gets chilly at night, bring blankets to the game in addition to sweater you where. My high school had cement bleachers, and I'll never forget the feeling of freezing my butt off during the game.

Heather Sunseri said...

Congrats on your award, and congrats to Steph! She's awesome and so deserves the silver shoe of sincerity award.

I so agree with you about taking in our surroundings to learn about our different characters and our settings. I'll be doing some of that myself this weekend. Have a good one.

Kim Kasch said...

My kids inspire me. Even tho, they aren't really kids any more. I still like to call 'em that 'cuz it makes me feel younger.

I can dream can't I?...

Lily said...

No, I'm not leaving Blogville to walk among those people! ;)

Congrats!

Beth said...

Ohhh, I just LOVE to people watch.

I also read somewhere that it's great to pick up maps, city guides, restaurant menus even, and to take location pictures when you visit a new place. I've done that on a few vacations, so I have something to refresh my memory in case I could use an idea for setting in my story.

Congrats on your award, and to Steph too! Have a great weekend!

Stephanie Faris said...

Wow! What a surprise. I came over just to comment and saw I was your recipient. I'm honored!

Girl in My Own World said...

P.S. I sent you a shot out on my blog today! I hope you like! :o)

Terri Tiffany said...

Love love love to watch people! I am never bored when out where I can do that!

Tara said...

I have great memories of HS football games. I think people watching helps in a number of ways from picking up on mannerisms to inspiring a story. Have fun.

strugglingwriter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
strugglingwriter said...

You have a good weekend too.

"I'm going to the high school football game because my daughter will be performing with the dance team at halftime" <- that sounds like a lot of fun :)

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Hi, Susan!

I like using real places in my books, so that the reader can feel anchored. A major building in my last manuscript actually came from Peru, where i sat on a balcony one night and stared at the building across from me for most of the evening. It just looked so much like a... well, you'll have to read my book one today to find out what. But that building became something else (it's a motorcycle dealership in Peru) in the South....

Hope this makes sense. I have like no time online this weekend so I'm typing super fast...

Have a great weekend!

Girl Meets Gun said...

This blog so hits right on the head for me.

I think I spend about 85% of my time alone during the week. It's just easier to write that way, and you're write- it is why we're writers! I remember in high school I'd just come home, go to my room, and write all night long.

But it is important to get out, as you said. Otherwise, where does the inspiration come from??

And congrats on the award! Woo hoo!! :)

Jody Hedlund said...

Love the cover of the book! I like to people watch too. It just seems that at this stage in my life with young children, I hardly have time to watch anything but them! Maybe someday I'll be able to do more than make sure they're not getting into trouble!

#167 Dad said...

I'm working on a time travel story set in Prescott, Arizona. My wife and I were married there and we return every year on our anniversary. I guess I've spent countless hours wandering the streests and staring at future characters.

Regina Milton said...

Good luck staring (or people watching/researching as we writers term it).

Absolutely love coming to read your blog; thanks for keeping it interesting and helpful!

Weronika Janczuk said...

I have the nastiest people-watching habit. Golly. But I'm just like you--I'll go to the local art gallery to see how artists present their work, etc., and also use the time to observe people.

Another great post, and congrats on the award. I'll get to critiquing your chapter this weekend if I have time (gah!).

Robyn Campbell said...

Great post. I'm a people watcher too. And sometimes I wonder if they think I'm stalking them or something.

I love observing people. But what must they think? :)

Anna C. Morrison said...

Alone is great, but people watching is hilarious. I did a lot of people watching the past couple days. I'm ready to be alone again tonight. Have fun at the football game!

JennyMac said...

Congrats...

and people watching is a constant source of blog fodder. :)

Jennifer Major said...

People Watching rocks! My mom, sister and I used to do it while we rested on a bench after shopping outselves silly. With a rootbeer in hand, we'd sit and watch how nutty we all seem while walking through the mall. What a great memory you stirred. Thanks!

Amy Tate said...

What a gorgeous night for football. I hope you had fun! I usually take Fridays off. Yesterday I spent the day at the mall for the very reasons you listed above. It felt so good to get out and look at all the fall decor, and people, and mingle mingle mingle!

DebraLSchubert said...

I was a cheerleader in HS and loved cheering for the football games. Except when it was freaking cold.

More awards, my dear! Check out my blog.;-)

Name: Holly Bowne said...

I agree completely with what you've said about being out in the world in order to be able to write about it. Plus, just interacting with friends and hearing stories about their interesting relatives can be awesome fodder for characters in books. :)

I'm doing the same thing regarding setting as well. I know nothing about construction, but one of my main characters is employed on a construction project. So I secretly stake out the new library that's being built in my city. I sit in my parked car where I can hear and see the sites, sounds, and smells of the site. Hopefully, they haven't noticed me yet!

Dawn VanderMeer said...

I agree--you have to live life to write about it.

The pale observer said...

Excellent post. I am also a people watcher. It is definitely the food for writing. People's expressions, movements, mannerisms, hands, clothes... everything. So interesting! I could do it forever.

I am Canadian but living in Ghana for the past 13 years. Africa gives a person sensory overload in the way of people watching. There are so many people! So many colours and smells and sounds... it's great.

Now I just have to take your inspiration and write a novel about it all... thanks and keep up the great work! I will be linking you.

Holli in Ghana

christine said...

Real life inspires me everyday. I am fortunate enough to hang out with a lot of young adults - good thing since I write YA. Talking with them every day is a never ending source of material for the books - as are the baristas at my fav Starbucks!

WhisperingWriter said...

I admit it, I'm a tad anti-social. But I do love to people watch. When I'm out with friends I'm usually quiet because I'm taking everything in.

Guely of Sweden said...

160 followers and counting! Like 40 comments each entry And only 5 months on line? Was good writting and pics of shoes "The" formula for a succesfull good blog like this one? Gotta mention good writting twice. Congratulations for the success it is well deserved!

Angie Muresan said...

Oh, I am a people watcher too. And how funny, but my husband also is under the impression that I'm staring. He says that every thought that goes through my head is expressed on my face. I tell him, that it's just friendly curiosity, and besides, I've made a lot of friends in this manner. Oh well, he's entitled to his own opinion. Great post and blog!