Last month I did a post called A Study of Character: At the Park. I focused on being at the park and how watching the children and adults can make for interesting character study as they can show us the variety of emotions in a short time. I would like to expand on this topic a little and now talk about the study of character at the mall and how it can be a great way to come up with character descriptions and mannerisms for your next character.
Have you ever stopped, sat down on a bench, and just watched the people walk by you at a mall? Sure we all go to the mall. We may even notice people passing that make us take a second look. We may even stop and stare at the man in orange pants with a Mohawk and tattoos on every visible surface of the skin. But it’s the more interesting stuff that can be seen when sitting down and watching.
Okay, it sounds weird and even a little stalkerish, but it really does work and it’s not like these people will ever see you again. So who cares if they think you’re weird and stare too much. Though, if a mall cop comes around, you may want to pretend your shoes are really interesting, or someone just called you on the cellphone. Maybe even have some exit strategy in mind that may or may not include a running dash for the closest exit. Just in case. But I digress.
I dare you to do it. Sit there and stare, or half stare. You know like out of the corner of your eye, because you think you can be less conspicuous that way. Take a look at everyone; old, young, normal, strange, male, female. What makes them who they are? Can you guess their occupation by just one look? Do they have any physical features that are intriguing that you may want to try fitting on your own character? What about any small mannerism that stand out, or don’t stand out?
It’s these little things that characters are built from, and the more you notice other people, the more your own characters come alive. It’s often the small things like the way a person walks, talks, pushes their hair behind the ear, nervously taps on solid surfaces, or licks their lips after every third word. It’s these things that make endearing characters. It makes us want to know more about them, because the character(s) reminds us so much of normal people. And that’s what it’s all about right, writing about normal people in extraordinary situations?
Next time you are at the mall. Find a place to sit. Get comfortable. Maybe even have an exit strategy in mind. But stop, stare, and observe. Be a study of character and bring your own characters to life.