Saturday, 18 May 2013

Observation and a Splash of Imagination - Linda Strachan

 People are fascinating, aren't they?  I think so and if like me you are an avid people-watcher, you probably do, too.

Waiting around for a bus or a train or in a queue for a show, or even in the supermarket there are lives being lived, secrets kept, tears held back as people maintain an acceptable public face.
Perhaps you are the person who is standing in the queue tapping their foot or making little sighing noises of irritation because of the time you are wasting?  It can be boring or irritating but it doesn't need to be.

The other people in the queue or sitting in a waiting room beside you are a fund of information and interesting stories if you care to look at them with a little imagination.

It's all about how they sit, or stand, the way they wear their clothes and how they inhabit their own bodies - with confidence or apology, exhaustion or discomfort.

Travelling on the underground can be fascinating. It's not something I do very often so perhaps I approach it with fresh eyes. I noticed that people don't look at each other, they tend to maintain their own private space and avoid eye contact, but even looking down at the floor can be informative.
Creating a back-story about the people around you can start with their feet because shoes tell a whole story of their own.
Are they smart and shiny, but uncomfortable, showing evidence of where they are rubbing at the heel or are they casual, scruffy or scraped?
The shoes a person wears could be telling about you how much care they give their appearance - whether it is that they don't care and place no importance on the state of their shoes, or simply have no time to think about it. Or are the shoes pristine and cared for, evidence of someone who takes great care with their appearance?  Are they in bright, garish colours or making a statement about wealth or fashion?

If you are invited to a wedding or celebration, a meeting or any event where you are seated with people you have never met before, take a few moments to check out the people around you.  What is their story?

Can you tell the heartache, the selfishness, the heroism or the fear that lurks behind the façade we all adopt in front of strangers?

People are fascinating, diverse and complicated. Everyone has a story, whether they care to share it or not and with a little careful observation and a splash of imagination you never know what you will discover.

Are you a people watcher?  What do you think reveals the most about the strangers around you?


Linda Strachan is the author of over 60 books for all ages from picture books to teenage novels and a writing handbook Writing For Children 

Her latest YA novel is Don't Judge Me  published by Strident 2012 



Sue Purkiss said...

Definitely a people watcher. It's another use for those notebooks we're always talking about, isn't it? And something to do while you're having a coffee - (discreetly) home in on an interesting person and make some notes about them.

Linda Strachan said...

Yes, notebooks full of interesting characters and possibilities about the lives behind the faces! But I think 'discreetly' is probably the important thing, Sue, or we could get into all sorts of bother.
It's possibly not the best idea to stare at people, however fascinating they may be. :)

Penny Dolan said...

Sometimes an odd fragment of a "seen" person can give the needed idea - the shape of a head, an elbow or a hand, or the way they move. (Memo: Must visit more coffee shops.)