Memorable Characters are Everywhere

I’ve always loved to people-watch. I find myself doing it more now that I have characters to create. Why is the woman wearing a fur coat in Las Vegas in 100 degrees? Why is a ten-year-old girl folding clothes in a marina laundry room all alone? Why does the man in the Starbucks line keep looking at his watch?

All have good reasons for what they’re doing, but I like making up better ones.

My favorite place to people-watch used to be racetracks. My first husband was a gambler, taking me to tracks and casinos and other places girls who weren’t yet twenty- one shouldn’t be. That was a lifetime ago, but what I remember were the people…sometimes desperate, sometimes happy, often drunk, but infinitely interesting.

Two years ago while cruising in our Nordic Tug in the San Juan Islands, Capt. Mark and I landed in Rosario on Orcas Island, a place with a huge hotel and conference center, lots of history, and (from the looks of things) a mostly wealthy clientele. It had a small grocery store, a decent coffee shop attached to the store, and of course, lots of people wandering around.

While picking up a few grocery items I spotted a couple that made me wish I had a notebook in my pocket. They were in a line to get take-out coffee. She was young…maybe in her early twenties, slim and pretty, and unhappy. He was much older…gray-haired, but fit, nice looking, and in a good mood. A very good mood.

Was she his daughter? Niece? Secretary? Girlfriend? Not wife…I did get close enough to notice no rings on certain fingers. She kept staring into the distance. He kept looking at her…touching her shoulder…even leaned down to kiss her cheek. She’d look up and try to smile, but it wasn’t working. It hadn’t been the weekend of her dreams.

They walked out onto a jetty and were picked up by a floatplane en route to Seattle. We got into our Nordic Tug and chugged off.

Cruising gives you lots of people to watch, but wheeling a cart through a grocery store can be just as interesting if you pay attention. Why is the man wearing a long, shapeless dress? Can the woman with five little kids in the grocery cart fit anything else in there? Does the cocky teen who just put a beer in his backpack think he can get away with it?

Stories are everywhere. Do you like to people-watch?

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