1. r3dfoe
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    r3dfoe Member

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    Studying the human atmosphere?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by r3dfoe, Jun 14, 2012.

    So to help myself write I sometimes "people watch." As in, I'll be out driving or in a restaurant and watch how people interact, notice differing features and personalities...etc... After thinking of their mundane routines I then imagine what they might do if my story were true and they were involved or if something from my book would happen to them. How would they react? What might they think?
    I definitely like using normal people, including friends or family, as models for my story. Some of the best characters come from someone I've known or just met - no matter if I've only met them for 10 minutes and won't ever see them again or I see them everyday and have known them my whole life. Or everything in between.

    My question is this, Who or what helps you devise your characters or "human atmosphere," as I like to call it? What elements of normal life or people that you meet end up in your story? I know its helped me out a lot working on mine. :)
     
  2. lallylello
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    lallylello Member

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    I have to commute to London for my job - only three or four times a month, luckily - I tend to use the train journey to do some serious people watching. I pick someone and then make up a back story for them. Sometimes, I'll take two people and imagine they're actually together and have had an almighty row so aren't talking. It's great inspiration for short stories and minor characters. It takes the edge off the long, boring journey too - if these people knew what fascinating lives they led in my head!
    I also catch snippets of people's phone conversations - as far as I'm concerned, if they want to carry out their conversations in public then it's not my fault if I overhear. This can be great for stories too - the way people talk, mannerisms etc.
    I carry a notebook around with me all the time to record stuff - essential as far as I'm concerned as I am very forgetful.
    Not sure I could people-watch while I'm driving though, r3dfoe, I think road-watching is safer!!!
     
  3. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have no idea what you mean by "human atmosphere" so I'm ignoring that term in the question.

    All characters in my earliest work were based on people I knew (but not very well) in the schools I went to and the people I would see around the towns I lived in. More recently my characters have been a merge of attributes from many different people and only in the case of physical appearance can I work out exactly who/what inspired them. I don't try to consciously think about it.
     
  4. Egor
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    Egor Member

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    Since my stories tend to be more plot-driven than character driven, I must admit that my characters can be a little underdeveloped. Therefore, I tend to create my characters on the fly and give them attributes that I need them to have for the story. In my current work, I feel the nihilism I'm trying to express is best seen through the eyes of an unattractive overweight main character. So, that's what I use. Then I just try to put myself in her shoes and imagine what she must be thinking. In my opinion, this kind of thing is where my job and my age have an advantage.
     
  5. r3dfoe
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    r3dfoe Member

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    Carrying a notebook is great but I often forget. Thankfully when it comes to characters or story related things, my memory is sharp as a tack! Haha, I do road watch but if I see a driver or a person that stands out then I instantly begin to think of what their life is like. While I drive I listen to music and incorporate a certain musical feel to what their lives are like - like a movie. It helps me envision things better.

    And to Yoshiko, I used to do the same thing. I don't force what comes to me, I just let it flow. Its like breathing now. I'll spot someone and hear snippets of conversation, see them interacting with friends or what not, or just walking down the road and -BOOM- I'm already thinking of their past - or back story - and what led them to their current spot and what may happen to them next. :p
     
  6. Mark_Archibald
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    Mark_Archibald Active Member

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    Its important to have realistic characters if that's your writing style. I admire the movie 'Pulp Fiction' because its characters are so flamboyant and unrealistic.

    When I write dialogue, I listen to sports radio and study the dynamics of the conversation. It tells me you're very determined if you're constantly thinking about writing, and studying the world around you. Often, when I take real life events and put them into writing I'll blow them out of proportion. I see all kinds of strange people on public transportation, and I think to myself 'what's their story?'
     
  7. r3dfoe
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    r3dfoe Member

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    Very interesting Mark_Archibald. And thank you :)

    I also agree, Pulp Fiction's characters were incredible because of how unrealistic they were. I love that movie :-D
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Unrealistic, but only because they were wildly exaggerated -- caricatures. It takes a keen eye for human nature to write such consistently on-the-mark exaggerations.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    re your question:
    anyone and everyone, anything and everything i see, hear, read, experience... i've been a people-watcher all my life and so i never want for characters to write about, nor their characters with which to fuel my writings...
     
  10. growingpains
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    growingpains Member

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    Most writers write people they've met or encountered into their writing. I'm not like that. I imagine my characters and then put them into situations that I've been in. So that's how I absorb the "human atmosphere." I've experienced a lot and I think as long as I continue doing stupid and careless things, I'll have something to write about.
     
  11. r3dfoe
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    r3dfoe Member

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    I love how interesting everyone's replies are. Its incredible to see how some share similar tricks while others vary in their own way :-D Very cool
     

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