Apologies in advance: this post will be on the short side. It’s 6pm and I’ve only just walked in the door from a two day sojourn to the beach with the family. The kids are smeared with sunscreen and sand and are way beyond tired. Lemonade iceblocks and a DVD are the only things holding them back from full-on cranky meltdowns, so I have to make this quick!
Our trip away was a spur-of-the-moment thing, and hugely relaxing. I was overly optimistic and packed my notepad and pens to jot down thoughts on revisions, or to make a start on today’s blog post … yeah, right. Should have known I wouldn’t crack that sucker open. Not once. Which is fine - enjoying time away with the kids is fun and so very important, for soon enough the time will come when the idea of taking a holiday with the boring, totally stupid parental units will make them want to slit their own throats. But I must confess, this “not writing” phase I am in (due to letting the SFD sit and percolate, and the holidays) is making my fingers twitchy. Heck, it’s making ME twitchy.
However, one of the perks of being a writer is that you can still work without pen, paper, or PC in sight. I know that I am not alone in being blessed with a vivid imagination (it’s occasionally a curse, especially when the cat meows at 3am, then stares out the doorway at NOTHING, just as the stairs begin to creak … ) and a healthy dose of curiosity (NOT nosiness, as some have so rudely and erroneously describe it. Ahem.) The odd and the quirky and the unique all tend to catch my eye, and never more so than when I people watch. I did a lot of that the last few days, being in a busy seaside holiday destination, and it was fascinating. Some of the human circus I observed:-
The balding, middle-aged man watching his kids swim in the hotel pool. He looked completely average, normal, vanilla … until he stripped down to his bathers and revealed the bling he wore around his neck. A triple rope of gold chain, with at least twenty gem stone pendants strung along each rope, each gem the size of your thumbnail … the bloke looked like a human Christmas tree, and I couldn’t help wondering, what was the story behind that? Why would a man who at first glance look like a mild-mannered accountant, wear a chain that even Liberace wouldn’t be game to wear?
Or at breakfast, the family who sat at the table next to us and did not utter a single word to each other. Silence reigned. What had happened? Had they had a blowup because someone took too long in the shower and made everyone run late? Or was that how they always were … and if so, why?
And the clutch of weather - and life - beaten guys, fishing off the end of the jetty, all of them looking like they’d not seen a toothbrush or a shower in a decade as they shared a bottle of cheap whisky at eight in the morning … how had this become their life? What had gone wrong … or was this how they wanted to live?
Life is full of moments and fleeting glimpses to file away for later, to muse upon and feed our stories. Scenes and dialogue and mannerisms snatched from real life can imbue the tales we tell with a reality and believability that sometimes rings more true than anything we can conjour from our imaginations. Which shouldn’t be surprising, really; the truth, after all, is stranger – and often much more fascinating - than fiction. I just don't know how I can fit my Liberace guy into my nineteenth century novel. But then again .... (g)
So, what’s the most interesting instance of human behaviour you’ve observed? And what results of your own “people-watching” have you ever incorporated into your work?