Monday, August 16, 2010

People Watching at a 4H Fair?

Writers often comment about how helpful it can be to watch people going about their business. In other words, spying on the behavior of others. This is almost a requirement for writers. And when I say spying, by the way, I don’t mean the James Bond style of stalking that could lead to getting arrested. I’m talking about casually observing the antics of the general population. For a writer, people watching is a kind of research. Noting real life human behavior is a great way to develop multi-dimensional characters with depth—characters with interesting traits, quirks and sometimes full on funkiness. Because, let’s face it, most people have moments when they are hilarious, fascinating, quirky, and full of the funky. This is part of what makes us human, I think. And maybe less than boring.

So, when the local 4H fair kicked into gear, I decided to combine people watching with a night out with friends and 4H dogs, horses, cows, goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, reptiles, alpacas (yes, that’s right—alpacas), and tractors.

What did I see? A husband and wife in a tornado of a fight over a bale of hay. Yes, hay. Writer me imagined that the screaming and arm-waving couple had an issue (dare I say issues) that went deeper than the block of hay, but maybe not.

In the food tent, I witnessed boys in a to the death, impromptu ice cream and waffle sandwich eating contest (here’s the visual: each sandwich is a two inch slab of ice cream between two frozen waffles). Nothing says twelve-year-old fun like cramming ice cream and waffles, all at once, into mouths too small to hold the mammoth treats.

Later, I caught a sweet moment where a girl was cooing words of love and encouragement to her alpaca (alpacas spit, by the way; they spit regurgitated or recently chewed grass, by the way).

And, of course, who could miss the herds of tweens and teens cruising the fairgrounds, clearly without much interest in the 4H animals? I could spend hours watching them (the tweens and teens, that is). But then, that’s probably why I write for these darlings.

So, I’m here to tell you that a fun night out with friends and animals can also lead to lots of fodder for character development. Fabulous.

Now, tell me: Do you people watch?


  1. I LOVE to people watch. Sitting at the mall and just watching the people go by is interesting. (Wonder what that couple was REALLY fighting about?)

  2. I agree, Bish! Sometimes, though, I have to make a conscientious effort to people watch. And yes, I also wonder what that couple was really fighting about. Oooo, they were MAD! Thanks for your comment!

  3. You are obviously very good at catching the little details that make reading about people interesting!

  4. Well, thank you for that, Terry. I hope so! : )

  5. I love this post cause I am a people watcher for sure! I just can't help it. How do you think those characters in those book come from he he he??? It comes from people who study people. We are such characters and creatures. I just love this post how on time and wonderful!!! Hope that you are enjoying the last few days of summer! Hugs to you Beautiful!

  6. Good point, V--characters do come from people watching. Thanks for your wonderful comment!
    Oh, and summer has been awesome. I'm just sad that it's coming to a close. Sending hugs right back! : )