More on People Watching

by limebirdamber

My grandma used to tell me how she enjoyed people watching. She especially enjoyed it when she would take preteen me to the mall and preteen Amber just could NOT be seen at the mall with her grandma. My granny sat on a bench and just watched people go by. She would imagine and sneak listens at the conversations around her. She just watched the people mill around her.

I think people watching would be an interesting way to come up with something for your creative work. It gives you a look at what people do when they think no one is looking; it gives you a look at more kinds of interactions. I know I’ve caught really strange snippets of conversation in my time, without trying. I normally don’t remember them well, sadly. I need to remember to keep my notebook on hand more.

Magical things can be afoot in a park.

People at the laundromat can be prepping for impending doom.

Just don’t get arrested when you start stalking someone. Don’t go trying to blame me either. Cause I never said stalk. And I don’t think “I just needed to hear the end of their conversation!” will fly in a court of law.

56 Comments to “More on People Watching”

  1. I love this idea Amber, because I also love to people watch. Sometimes I hear say things as they walk past that I think ‘that would be an awesome story’. Great idea! x

    • Thanks 🙂 I like to watch people when they think they aren’t, especially people I sort of know. You get a good idea of who they are. At least around certain people who aren’t you, you know?

      It’s quite funny.


  2. I think it’s natural that writers love to observe and imagine the stories of the people they see in public. Something I discovered after years of working as a journalist was not to make judgments about people based on how they were dressed or how well they spoke. As my mamma used to say, “Nice is not the same as good!” It’s also good writing practice to bring along a notebook and make descriptive “sketches” of the people you see. Great post and thanks 🙂

  3. I love people watching, although one of my old girlfriends took it to a bit of an extreme. If anyone’s going to end up in court for stalking, innocently proclaiming she just wanted to catch the end of the conversation, it’s her… I’ve had to stifle laughter in public when I’ve heard a snippet from the middle of a conversation and imagined what the people are talking about. Definitely a good source of inspiration for stories – great shout, Amber! I’d love to read a short story based on a misunderstanding as a result of people watching (hint, hint – if anyone’s sitting here wondering what to write in the LimeBirds forum) =)

  4. People watching is just the absolute best 🙂 I usually do it when I’m stuck in traffic. I am a bit nosy though to be fair. It’s interesting to imagine where they are going and why. My favourite people watcher was the artist Beryl Cook. She would transfer the people she’d see in the street onto canvas in her own unique way. A lot of wonderful creativity can come from it.

    • That sounds wonderful. I can only imagine what that was. It’s a good exercise to get out of your own head as well. See things from another side.

  5. Do you ever play the game with a friend where you sit somewhere busy and make-up who the people are and what they’re doing? “See her there? That’s Janice, she’s a secretary from Doncaster. She’s just here in London on a hen weekend. She’s now shopping for a dress for tonight before joining the girls for a drink at the hotel”. Ok, that one was a bit boring, but you can have fun making them increasingly outrageous!

  6. Back in a simpler time (the late 1940s and early ’50s) when I was a little girl, my mother and a close friend of hers used to like to drive downtown, park (this was before parking meters that you had to feed with coins), and “watch the people go by.” Personally, as a ten-year-old, I thought it was pretty boring – I preferred to be reading. In those days, too, there was a lot of window-shopping – you got out of the car and walking up and down the street, gawking into the store windows (this was before malls – boy, I do go back, don’t I?) Does anybody do that any more?
    I never really thought of those activities as source material for writing. Of course, I write futuristic science fiction and fantasy, but still, any writer needs to understand human nature.

  7. My wife and I love to make up dialogue, each of us playing the role of a different passerby. It’s amazing how many of our little character have STDs.

  8. I’m with you on this one, people watching is a great way to pass the time and also to help create characters. It’s awful though when your eyes meet with the person whom you are goggling – I usually scratch my nose and then look away.

    • Just smile at them creepily and lick your lips. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.

      • Ha Ha – you terror! I will have to choose carefully who I do that to as I seem to attract unusual types and often have to make a quick exit.

  9. “And I don’t think “I just needed to hear the end of their conversation!” will fly in a court of law.” Haha, worth a try though!

    This was totally going to be the subject of my next post! Listening to random bits of conversations is a great place to find inspiration, and you hear the strangest things out of conext!

  10. “Listening in” is a great way to get inspiration. And it’s so much easier these days as people talk on their phones in public! You can turn those one-sided conversations into so many story possibilities. 🙂

  11. It’s funny sometimes when the people watching ends up involving you. I was watching a young man (early 20’s?) walk out of a store with his friend as I walked toward the door. I watched him start to walk away…suddenly he turned to me and deadpanned loudly, “I just ate some cheese!”
    Being the idiot I am I responded, “Good for you! Everyone should eat cheese!” as he ran away, laughing with his friend at how “outrageous” he had been.

  12. I super love to people watch. It was actually an assignment in an acting class of mine to go listen to a full conversation and then act it out on camera …it was kind of creepy but pretty fun! We were even told to take a recorder (I used my phone) It added a level of creep to the whole thing.

  13. I love to people-watch, too. I never thought about using what I see/hear as material. I’ll take your warnings to heart! 😉

  14. This might be a bit sad, but inspired by LimeBirdAmber’s post, I wrote a short story. You can read it here: 🙂

  15. People watching is great. So many people are fascinating to watch go about their business. When I studied creative writing I remember reading some passage about being encouraged to be more aware of your surroundings, particularly for dialogue. Such nonsense that people come out with sometimes. Priceless.

  16. My grandmother passed on her love of peoplewatching to me. Sometimes I’ll sit alone at a restaurant and eavesdrop. 😉

  17. I love people watchiing, too. Sometimes though I get grossed out, because human beings are gross when they think no one is watching them. Ever notice that? However, I have found that I can often predict what someone will do just by watching their body language, for instance if they’re headed for a particular store in the mall or if they’re meeting someone in a restaurant. It’s fascinating, really.

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