Looking for new character ideas? Try observing the people around you.

This week I am on vacation far from home. While I'm doing my best to relax and not think about my impending to-do list, my mind is still working and observing people all around me. Maybe it's easier to notice the differences in people when you're away from home, since their clothes, accents, and general mannerisms are naturally different than the ones you're used to seeing every day. All that to say, being away from home is a perfect way to gain new ideas for characters.

The next time you're looking for inspiration to create a truly unique and memorable character, here are some traits to look for in the people you meet or pass by:

Language: Many communities have their own unique expressions and accents, and if you really listen when people talk, you'll pick up interesting tidbits to use in your own book. And always make sure to keep an eye out for the outliers, the extroverted comedian-type people who have a unique way of seeing the world and expressing their feelings. Some great expressions I overheard this week were:

“Geez, bye, what 're you doing there?”
“Come on, let’s go...Hup! two, three, four.”

Body language: Observe how people walk down the street. Do they shuffle their feet, hang their head, or swing their arms? Are they lean, fit, and athletic, or are they short and stooped with a pot belly? When they speak, do they look you in the eye or look away? Do they cross their arms or pat you on the shoulder?

Dress: What are the local fashion trends? Are people wearing hoodies, long shorts, and joke T-shirts? Do the older women have perfectly rounded, curled hair, and do the older men wear white sneakers? Are the little girls wearing neon bracelets and high ponytails? Are the little boys wearing plastic warrior masks and play-fighting with swords?

There are character ideas all around you—you just have to observe them. And since people are everywhere, finding writing inspiration can be as simple as going for a walk and people watching.

Good luck with your writing!

Stacey D. Atkinson is a freelance editor and author of Stuck, a novel she published via her independent company Mirror Image Publishing.  

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