People Watching and Not Getting Punched

Lazy Monday, so I won’t say much. 

Have you ever found yourself people watching? By now everyone has heard of the practice, you sit somewhere and watch people as they go past. Maybe you have a friend there and you pass the time with color commentary. It is good fun, if you are quiet about it, and a good skill to practice.

Skill? That is, noticing the world around you. Sometimes I sit down to write and I realize I don’t really know how a person would do X or Y. Instead, we fall back to the things we have noticed, the moments we kept our eyes open long enough to consider certain actions distinctly human.

For instance, in a story once I mentioned a mother ‘packing’ cigarettes. My instructor for the workshop didn’t know what I meant by this, but several classmates understood. As much as any nervous tick or scratch, the everyday movements of smokers are great for establishing a character without having to say much. Anyone who has seen a smoker will understand, even if they don’t know exactly why.

Personally, I am always afraid of getting caught people watching. I don’t make a day of it, I just do it when I’m in the middle of crowds. Of course, we live in a world where starring at someone tends to make them uncomfortable. I also have the added benefit of being wide at the shoulder and Black, so whether I mean to or not I can scare people even if they could definitely take me in a fight.

It is definitely worth the odd stares for me to get a chance to see people acting natural. That face a mother makes when her kid does something cute but destructive, the look of old people who aren’t quite comfortable but are being friendly regardless, the sound of nerds being their most childish in an act of bonding.

I saw a fair bit of that last one yesterday, at Anime Evolution in Vancouver. I never thought I would see a grown man just strip off his shirt and do battle against another grown man in full plate (he was house Stark, based on his crest) without a healthy consumption of alcohol first. It happened though, and they hooped and hollered, glomped and squeed.

It was a chance to see people try to take on another face, while unknowingly jumping deep in a new social role. Their language, both verbal and body, changed. It wasn’t about pretending to be Deadpool, or Scouts from Attack on Titan, it was at once about unleashing something inside.

As a writer, as a student of sociology, all around it is a learning experience. I will have to people watch more often.


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