Today’s writing task is from author Phil Bildner, challenging us to develop characters from observing those around us. Oh my, if this isn’t a southerner’s dream assignment! Being TOLD to people-watch for the craft of writing… why yes, I do believe I can accomplish this goal!
I’m a people-watcher by nature. The act of social observation is something that flows through my veins like water rippling down a stream. It’s the purpose of people-watching that changes over time. I used to people-watch out of curiosity, intrigued by characteristics that vibrantly stood out against the crowd: the spiked porcupine hair, the ripped shirts and fall-to-your-knees baggy pants. Then I people-watched out of boredom, waiting for my daughter to be released from her ballet class; dance moms eagerly vying for position, nearly scrambling over one another to spotlight their darling virtuoso.
And then my purpose shifted. I was no longer interested in the external cloak strangers wrapped around their souls. Their clothes, their hairstyles, their speech; it was all a disguise, a defense, a deterrent. These characteristics merely shrouded their core beauty, a dank and musty shell of their divine calling. Who were these people who sat mere inches from my seat?
It was then that I sought their eyes: making contact, reaching out, extending a smile. Connection. The moment is always brief, fleeting. But in that moment you gain a glimpse of someone’s soul and the beauty that reflects back is breathtaking.
And then… they are gone.
The characters change, the props shift, another act begins. Yet, there is a piece of them now connected to you, a thin fiber woven into your spirit. These fibers create a tapestry of kindness, beautiful colors and fabrics that permeate every ounce of your being.
This is how characters develop, one thread at a time.