Thursday, 12 January 2012


I started my writing career writing for children’s magazines, often based around licensed characters such as Barbie, Thomas the Tank Engine and Winnie the Pooh. Which meant that I had to write stories around characters that had already been created by someone else.  So I guess that’s why I like to know what my character is like before I write a story. For me, the character comes first. I get a picture of a character in my head and start thinking about them, what their name is, how old they are, who their friends are. Then gradually that character starts to tell me their story and I'm ready to write.

And sometimes it’s real characters I’ve seen that have started the germ of the idea in me. Because whenever I’m out and about, in a cafe, travelling by bus or train, I love to indulge in my favourite hobby of people watching. I think people are fascinating. They do the funniest, strangest – and kindest – things and are a constant source of inspiration for stories.  For example, If I saw this man running along the street I'd be asking myself all sorts of questions such as who is he? Why is he running? Where is he going?

I especially love people that stand out from the crowd, the girl with the purple spiky hair and orange fur jacket, who is she? What does she do? The man in the cowboy hat with the green feather sticking out, where did he get the hat from and why does he wear it? The beautiful woman in the long pink dress and matching turban, where is she going? To a wedding? A party? Is she meeting someone? Asking myself questions about people I see and imagining their lives often gives me ideas for stories. Even people doing everyday things like lying on the beach or gardening fascinate me.

So if you ever see me sitting on a park bench watching the world go remember that I might look like I'm just relaxing but I’m probably working on a story – and if you're not careful you might be in it!


Stroppy Author said...

How lovely - yes, real people are the most interesting of things. I like to sit in pavement cafes in warm countries (OK, Italy) and watch people. And of course it's work - you're absolutely right.

catdownunder said...

It is one of the best things about riding my tricycle. I can watch the world, observe gardens, talk to cats (and sometimes dogs). I can look at houses and decide what is going on inside them. I can watch other people riding or walking and wonder who they are and what they are doing. People watching is a fascinating occupation!

Rosalind Adam said...

Hi Karen, it must have been quite restricting writing stories for such a well established character as Winnie the Pooh. I agree about the people-watching though. It's a fascinating thing to do. In my blog I've referred to myself as a Nosy Adam many a time!

Linda Strachan said...

Yes, Karen, people are fascinating and a continuous source of inspiration.
When travelling in the Underground in Glasgow or the Tube in London (since we don't have such a thing in Edinburgh) I am the person who sits there looking like a kid at Christmas, fascinated by the people around me, who all seem to be avoiding looking at anything or anyone.
I'm trying to guess where they are going and why. But it's their footwear that I find most interesting. You can discover all sorts of things about people by looking at their shoes!

Anonymous said...

Great post, I love people-watching too!

Nicky said...

Inveterate people watcher here too. Have to remember not to stare/look like a stalker/desperate singleton wanting a hook up/potential child molester. Mind you being mistaken for any of the above would produce interesting copy. Sorry I've posted today too. Probably my mistake.