Goldmine for Characters

27 Feb

I love airports. The hustle and bustle of people from so many different places. Where do they all come from? Where are they all going? Why do they dress the way they do? What language are they speaking? I can think of few places better to study people. A large shopping mall would be a second option.

Take your notebook and sit down with a cold drink where you can see people as they pass by. Pick one and describe them, in detail. Be sure to include small details, not just their height and weight. Do they have any scars or visible tattoos? Might they have some hidden? Go ahead take a guess. I do not recommend you go up and ask them, unless of course, you are an extreme extrovert and don’t mind a hard slap in the face.

Now, think about what they are doing in the airport. Where are they going and why. C’mon, you’re creative. It’s easy. What sort of intrigue are they involved in? Did they just have a fight with their boss? Spouse? Stranger? What about? What conflict drives them? OMG isn’t this fun?

With a little luck you can hear them talk to someone else. How does their voice sound? Is it high or low? Does it have texture? Is there a dialect you can pick up on. What are they talking about? Business, Family matters? Corporate politics? Write it down. Don’t sit there staring at them. You don’t want to be arrested for stalking, do you?

Sometimes you have to write fast. They move in and out of your life so fast. That’s okay, there are lots more. If you can’t fill up a notebook during a two-hour layover in O’Hare or La Guardia, you are not trying very hard. Now the hard part is over.

Here is the fun. During the two and a half hour flight to anywhere, look through your notes. Try to regain the image of each character. Think about the story you are writing. Where can this character fit in? Some times it’s hard. But remember, there are lots of characters in your story. They may be minor but why not let them have the back story you created. Most of the time I come up with several good to great characters that can easily be inserted into my story.

I will leave you with one piece of advice. The next time you are traveling through an airport and you happen to see a man scribbling away in a notebook who occasionally glances your way. Have no fear. It is only me, adding to my list of characters.

Have a nice day!


Posted by on February 27, 2012 in Other Strangeness


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8 responses to “Goldmine for Characters

  1. annewoodman

    February 27, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    Love this post! So true. I have to say, though, that I rarely fly anywhere… but when I was growing up outside Atlanta, it was easy to take Marta down to the airport and just hang out–we were avid people-watchers. Today, it probably would be called stalking. ; )

    • Dennis Langley

      February 27, 2012 at 8:49 pm

      I certainly draw the line at following them down the concourse. That Might be crossing the line. 😮

  2. Kimberly Packard

    February 29, 2012 at 12:49 am

    Love people watching! I traveled a lot for my previous job and I loved chatting up random people – it’s amazing what one stranger will tell another and it’s all good fodder for character development.

    • Dennis Langley

      February 29, 2012 at 1:30 pm

      Absolutely. Everyone’s favorite topic is themselves. So, if you can get them started, hold on for the ride. You never know what you will hear. Thanks for your comment.

  3. scottweberwriter

    February 29, 2012 at 2:57 am

    Airports are great, but I also really like gathering places like fairs, or parks in the summer, or even the occasional Mall. Everyone has a story, I just think it should be the one I give them.

    • Dennis Langley

      February 29, 2012 at 1:28 pm

      Going to a RenFest is another great place. The trouble is, I like to engage with people there versus just watching and taking notes.

  4. Pat

    March 7, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    That is a great idea! You might also try 16 th st mall to get a more diverse group of characters. 🙂

    • Dennis Langley

      March 8, 2012 at 1:28 pm

      You are right about 16th street mall. Can you say tutu wearing, rollerskating man with Rainbow hair?
      Thanks for the comment.


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