If you’re not already, you really should be a people-watcher. Some of the people you watch might be a little creeped out by it, but trust me, there’s a lot to be learned about writing by watching people, by making a study of them and learning as much as you can about their behavior.
The purpose of writing is to emulate reality. Whether we’re writing straight-up fiction, science fiction, fantasy, or horror – we want our work to mirror the world around us in many ways, if only so our readers have something to relate to, something that will keep them reading our story, and continue coming back to it again and again. But to do that, we need to know all there is to know about people, first and foremost.
1. Character creation
Very obviously, characters are based off our perception of actual people. There’s no other way to go about it. We write what we know, and we write about characters (whether they be people or creatures) that are created off what we know about the world around us. So when we watch people, we get a better idea of what those characters should look and act like. We have a firmer understanding of facial expression, of emotion and feeling, of behaviors, of everything that makes people what we know them to be.
2. Dialogue formation
We have to be a little more cautious with this one. People don’t talk like characters do. But when you people watch, when you learn to eavesdrop on random people’s conversations, you learn more about the way people talk. People watching, in this case, shows us how to make our characters sound more like normal people, like they could step off the page and sit on the couch next to your reader.
3. Understanding of personality
Personalities come in every shape and form, and until you come to a full understanding of that, you’ll never be able to create a full range of characters. When you watch people, when they become a priority in what you’re doing, you’ll see just how many personalities there are out there. You’ll learn how to create those personalities, how to make them relate to one another, bash heads, and even fall in love.
Essentially, you’ll be better able to create characters, because we’re all characters in our own stories. It’s just that we need someone else to notice that. A writer, perhaps.