I people watch. I see a lot of normal people doing normal things. I’ve seen a lot of not so normal things. I mean “normal” here loosely.
For example, I consider it normal for people to stare at the ground or out the window when they walk through the library because the majority of people do it.
There is a girl that comes into the library once in a while. (I say ‘girl’ but she’s a young woman, at least 18 or so, could be older.) She’s got short straight red hair. Natural red, like the soft red that comes with freckles and fair skin. She walks in, sits down at a computer, and the first thing she does is brush her hair.
Why? I don’t know. It’s a strange thing to do, considering she is the only person that does it. It’s not “abnormal” – brushing one’s hair is a completely normal thing do it.
I’m sitting here, watching her brush her hair, and I think – what makes her carry a brush around? Her hair’s not long enough to get tangled. Is she overly worried about it looking windblown? Is she self-conscious about it?
And here I am, planning a personality around this girl who brushes her hair when she comes inside. I don’t know the real girl personally; I’m creating a character. It’s fun. It also passes the otherwise monotonous day at the circulation desk.
I’ve created a character, a young woman, who is very worried about her hair. She’s worried about losing it because when she was younger, she saw someone lose all their hair. She’s got really pretty hair – everyone tells her so, and so she’s grown up thinking that her hair is her most valuable possession.
What color is it? I don’t know, gold seems too cliché. Maybe it’s dark red, or that blue-black, or rich copper. Whatever color it is, it’s not a common hair color. Other girls dye their hair that color, but it doesn’t look as good.
Of course, in the way of the story, something would happen that would make her lose her hair – not by some disease, but by a choice she has to make. She’s given a choice in which one option, the better option, is to shave her head or she needs to cut it super short, pixie style. It’s hard. It’s an obstacle she needs to overcome, and she realizes there is more to her than just her hair.
See? Wasn’t that fun? Here’s the challenge: go to a public place, find someone mildly interesting, and make a character around them. Work those writer muscles!