Temporary Stalking Behavior

Occasionally, I sit to the side in a place where crowds of people come and go and I watch them, looking for that one person in the throng who catches my attention.  I never know why he or she catches my eye; it just happens.  When it does, I follow the person with my eyes and manufacture a suitable life story.  It’s an odd pastime, and one I in which I engage rarely, but I find it enjoyable.  I don’t have a story in mind before the person catches my interest; I make it up on the fly.

These people, the subjects of my flights of fancy, routinely have found their way into my writing.  Until just this morning, I’ve never consciously thought my habit of people-watching had any direct connection to my writing; I’ve always thought it was just coincidence that one of my “subjects” wound up as a character on the page. But now, I think watching people must fuel my imagination; it’s my way of making strangers matter.

One such experience, one that differed slightly from the typical one in which I stand to the side and watch the world go by, comes to mind this morning.  This experience was different in that my wife and I were having dinner in a very nice steak restaurant in San Antonio, Texas.  We were seated at a table near the center of a very large room.  While we awaited our food, I looked at the people seated at tables all around us and across the room.  And I made up stories to explain what brought them to the restaurant.  I gave each of them some background. When we got back to our hotel room, I spent an hour or two writing the stories down. I have no idea whether I still have them, but I think I’ll search for them. The characters who emerged from that experience were among the most highly developed of any that sprang from my people-watching. I’d like to revisit them and explore a little more about their lives.

I wonder what my subjects would think if they knew I was stalking them temporarily, milking them for stories?  They will never know.



About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Temporary Stalking Behavior

  1. Well, then, Joyce, I know my behavior is not a sign of madness…either that, or my madness is shared!

  2. Joyce says:

    John, when I was traveling regularly, I’d spend wait time in an airport watching people and making up stories in my mind about what they did for a living, where they were going, if they were happy, sad, worried, etc. Never wrote the stories but, yes, I was a stalker also.

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