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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Travel Inspiration III – The people!

Okay, I found that guy's picture online, but I would LOVE to meet him. I think he'd fit well into the stories I write. 

Every writer I know is only a telephoto-lens and an apartment dark-room away from being a creepy stalker. Writers watch people. It’s just what we do. We watch interactions, we watch reactions, and we stare at people. We do all that because we’re mentally writing down descriptions. Without believable characters, you can’t have a believable story. It just doesn’t work.

"C'mon, Steve," you say. "I can find people to watch anywhere. I don't need to travel to get inspiration in that regard."

True enough. You certainly don’t need to travel to exotic destinations to find observable people. An afternoon on your neighborhood park bench will suffice for that goal. Same goes for cultural differences. I'm from Canada, which is a very multicultural country, and If I want to observe different cultures in action, I can do that at my local mall.

But there is a difference between the people you meet at the park, or mall, and the people you meet overseas. Sure there is a bit more in the way of culture when you're overseas, and the smells and textures of the environment will probably be quite different. But as far as people go, the group I most enjoy watching when I'm traveling ... the group I get the most inspiration for my stories from, are the foreigners. Other travelers. People just like me.

See, I like to throw my characters into situations they’re ill prepared for, and ill-prepared-for-experiences are a dime a dozen along off-beaten travel paths. It might be something as common as watching exhausted travelers dredge up just enough energy to play their thousandth game of charades with the hotel/guesthouse/hostel desk clerk in order to get a room. Or perhaps it's the couple who’ve just returned from their first Tuk-Tuk ride, thrilled, clearly, to be alive, but also confused because they have no idea why the driver forced them into half a dozen jewelry and tailor shops on their way to their destination. Or maybe it's the guy in the restaurant who stares in disbelief at the meal he has just received, and you know he's trying to sort out, a) how he’d managed to mess up his order so badly, and b) how one goes about eating a soup made up of live, swimming fish.

It's an interesting experience  to observe your fellow travelers. If you get the chance, I highly recommend it.

What about you guys? Where do you find the best place to observe people? Where do you draw characterization ideas from?


JeffO said...

That guy looks like he could have been the inspiration for Popeye!

Characterization comes from all over, I suppose. Some are based on people I know, others just come from ... somewhere. I don't know, just notions about what a particular character should be like.

JTWIDER said...

I really liked these travel posts and this one especially. Never really thought about it, but I think it would be interesting to watch my fellow travelers. I'll do that next trip which is in a month. Brazil here I come! You have great blog here. I'll be back for sure.

Anonymous said...

That picture looks like my fater-in-law. nice post series. I agree with JTWIDER, I'll be back too.

Anonymous said...

I had the same thought as JeffO that that guy looked just like Popeye, haha. I think characterizations can come from local park benches a lot of the time, but there is something extra that is added by traveling, like you say. I really like airports and train stations, because everyone around you automatically has a plotline happening somewhere of where they're coming from and some reason that made them leave it to get on the plane and go wherever they're going. Nice post.

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