Long before I became a writer, I was a people watcher. Crowded shopping malls, restaurants, and airports were among my favorite places to make observations.
Now, as a writer, studying people has taken on a new meaning. I once wrote a short story after I witnessed a meeting between a young man and another couple in a restaurant. They might have been his parents. It was in January, but they brought him Christmas gifts. I couldn’t help but wonder about the story behind that meeting.
Recently, while standing in line at the pharmacy, I had the privilege of observing the customer in front of me. The clerk asked her date of birth as proof of identity. I was surprised to learn she was eighty years of age. She paid for her purchase with a check, which I found refreshing in these days of plastic money. I wanted to learn more about her, and I could picture her as a character in a future book.
There are times when I encounter people and wonder about their story without necessarily thinking about writing. Such was the case a one Saturday morning when I was out for breakfast with my husband.
A young man came into the restaurant with two small boys. The oldest was perhaps three or four years old, the younger one less than one year. I assumed he was the father and I expected the mother to join them, but she never came. He didn’t wear a wedding ring. Was he a single father who had his sons for weekend? Was he perhaps giving the mom a day for herself?
Behind every person is a story. (You can tweet that.)
People are more than an idea for a book or blog post. Everyone we encounter have their own stories. Some are going through difficult times. Others are in the midst of changes and needing to make important decisions. Some have recently experienced a life-changing event.
A few months ago, I read a quote by singer Toby Mac.
Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.
I need to remember this the next time someone makes me angry when they cut me off in traffic. Perhaps they are in a hurry to be with a loved one in the hospital. When someone pushes ahead of me in line at the grocery checkout, it could be because they were running late from work and needed to get home to their family.
The chatty passenger sitting beside you on the plane could be lonely and in need of someone to talk to. If someone lashes out in anger, it may be their way of hiding deep and abiding sorrow or stress. We never know what battles most people are facing.
Have you ever had an unpleasant encounter with a stranger? How did you handle it? If you are a writer, do you often get story ideas from observing people?
I’d love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts in the comments.
[special] Congratulations to Stacy Claflin and LaMcCoy! Their names were randomly selected to receive copies of Lorna Faith’s book, Answering Annaveta. [/special]