People Watchers

My mother ran her own business, starting with craft shows when I was only about five years old. I always went with her so I learned to make change at a very young age. I also learned how to smile and be polite to make the sale. When the crowds were slow, I learned to watch people and I would make up stories about them in my head. What else was a child supposed to do while working for eight to ten hours?

The mannerisms and actions of the people walking by the booth would portray what was going on in their lives. The ones who walked by very quickly had no interest in what we were selling, their minds set reaching their destination. The mother’s who walked by with strollers were usually moving much slower, the stroller still rolling back and forth while they stopped to look at baby blankets. A wayward child would wander by with a frantic mother coming soon after in search of them. I learned to watch their eyes. The eyes gave way to internal dialogue. This customer loved the items and would have paid twice what we were asking, or another person may have had a longing for the item, but the price was too high and they had to weigh what adjustments they could make and how much they really wanted the item. Most of those people came back.

When they paid for the items, I noticed their hands. Long graceful hands with sculpted fingernails always made me think of someone with disposable income. Women with chipped nail polish and weathered hands reminded me of the middle aged mother who still wanted to remember that she was a woman, but spent more time on her family than herself.

Dirty or calloused hands belonged to people who used their hands to work. It’s nothing to sacrifice a chunk of skin if you hands are bringing something broken back to life.

All of these observations paved the way for me to create characters. It’s very important that a character is a fully rounded person, from the way they stand, the way they walk, the way they move their hands are all just as important as what they look like while they move and what their hands look like. Character development isn’t only about the words they speak or the events around them. It’s about the unique mannerisms they posses and the mindless unspoken clues they unconsciously carry.

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3 Comments on “People Watchers”

  1. Neil Reid says:

    I should sleep, but you make me want wakefulness. Things to do, pack a bag, but I want to stay awhile, make some reply. Sort of one of my newer golden rules – be appreciative, don’t keep it just to myself, waste it all away.

    Beautiful. Beautiful just reading your posting here. You could make me believe in reading fiction again, even if this isn’t as such – but where it points to, yes, and the more I understand what you mean and why. Yet your prose reads near like a poem to me, so much texture in even one line, even like your second above, “I always went with her so I learned to make change at a very young age.” Quietly rich in sensibility, yet only warming up for more, “if your hands are bringing something broken back to life.” Praise is too brief. Appreciation endures, lingers – I’ll go with that. You make me want more! I like admitting that.

    I like mostly poems. Their short, an easy fit on the spoon. Leastwise, the ones I like. And pardon please, those who walk on for a day, a week, and more across the sands. It’s just me, mostly I like one horizon line all visible in one glance, one hand. But you remind me of something more, this other way. Now I’ve something more to consider looking out my window here. Maybe that’s a better praise?

    My thanks.

    • Hi Neil, It’s great to see you! I’ve discovered that my enjoyment of blogging comes mostly from telling others that I find their work to be interesting, amusing, entertaining, humorous, wonderful. Otherwise, those talented people stop writing if no one ever responds, so thank you very much for your kind words.

      I’m a fan of poetry because I enjoy the imagery it creates in my mind even when it isn’t the image the author intended. Fiction tends to create an image that the author and reader have to agree on.

      In my blogs, I write in different styles depending on what my subject is. Some are written quickly and disjointed and others flow more fluid.

      I appreciate your words very much. Thank you.

      • Neil Reid says:

        Claire, you make me smile! Those first words of yours reflect a certain stance I too have come to more fully understand and appreciate. I suppose we could call it nourishment. And the happy secret is, it works both ways.

        And something more about poetry I’ve adopted from my mentor of sorts, William Stafford. He regarded the reader as much participant as the poet. And more, that it matters not so much that as reader, we get the literal personal image as the poet meant, but rather join with the thread as the poet began and now may be carried on in the reader’s mind, in their own way, in their own life.

        I like that notion and I think it is what happens anyway!

        I also have to report my first in so many years dalliance into prose. Reading your brief exposition here was one seed, then another, someone’s book title, “How to be Lost” sent me into a glad whirlwind of memories I have begun writing down. We’ll see what comes. And my thanks.


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