Hi SEers! Denise here, and I’m going to talk about an exercise I did in a writing class and how it inspired new ideas.
The assignment was to sit out in public, observe, and take notes. I was to include all the senses and impressions. It was an opportunity to find a new story idea along with being immersed in a setting.
I sat at our local park above the public swimming pool. Armed with a water bottle, notebook, and pen, I took in the tall pines and oaks surrounding me and the area. The damp, warm grass under my bare feet was uniformly cut. Its musky aroma was mixing with the sweet scent of the patch of purple and yellow wildflowers off to my side.
The hot sun was almost overhead, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Voices echoed up from the pool in a loud rumble mixed in with laughter, while the lifeguards were perched in their wooden towers with white noses and a whistle around their necks. I spotted a kid who wasn’t interacting with anyone. He seemed more interested in the flowering plants that lined the pool.
A gentle warm breeze brought the smell of chlorine and suntan lotion to me. Over to my right, children played on the swing set while their parents huddled together, talking with a watchful eye on their children. A red four-door vehicle caught my eyes as it drove slowly by the pool with classic rock floating out its open driver’s window.
A lot was going on around me, and my senses were full of this summer moment. I had a setting with so many possibilities. Here are a few story ideas I came up with doing this exercise:
- Why was that kid sitting alone and not swimming? What did he really see in the flowers?
- The car driving by, was it a parent picking up their child, or was someone planning to kidnap one of the swimmers?
- What is the history of this place? Are there any legends or stories? How did they keep cool 100 years ago?
- Would a lifeguard have to save a child’s life today? What if the child didn’t make it?
- Were two of the talking parents at the playground having an affair?
- Who just cut the grass? Was it a widowed vet whose child was sick?
- Was one of the laughing teens being abused at home?
- The potent smell of chemicals—had someone added poison to the water?
- What if a tree came crashing down? Who would be the heroes?
- Will the young man in the blue swim trunks talk to the girl he’s been staring at the entire time?
Just people-watching for a half-hour opened my mind to things I would have passed by in my busy life. Plus, it gave me an impressive setting to use.
Next time you get stuck writing or are suffering from writer’s block, try people-watching. Perhaps the ideas will flow for you as they did for me!
Have you ever people-watched before? Did any stories or ideas come from it?