When I was sorting out various boxes from our recent move I came across a collection of my old notebooks, and of course I had to take a look through them. The first few I pulled out dated back to my early writing days and contained several ‘character sketches.’ These weren’t sketches as in drawings, but rather short written observational pieces.
One of the earliest pieces of advice I’d been given about writing was to carry a notebook and at least once a day sit down somewhere; a park, mall, train station, coffee shop, or similar and just watch people. Then pick out a person and use them as a visual prompt for creating a quick 200 word piece. How would you describe them? Why were they there? What bought them to this point? Did they suggest or spark ideas for alternate stories?
While I’ve stayed in the habit of carrying a note book (although I wasn’t using it as much as I should) over the intervening years I’d stopped doing those short sketches. Until now. I’ve committed to myself that for 2017 I’m going to get back into the habit of ‘sketching’ and will post the results on this blog.
So to start the process here’s a little something I wrote over lunch today:
The Boy Who Watched.
At first glance he appeared to be about fifteen years of age, or maybe even a few years younger. It was a misconception that he used to his advantage, for who would take such a young boy seriously? He kept to the edges of the room; watching everything, but noticed by none.
Standing about five feet tall, he had a rounded, almost cherubic, face and smooth features that had yet to display any signs of stubble or beard. The eyes were bright and shone with the promise of youth, yet the lids were heavy and he wore an aura that suggested a lifetime of experience well beyond his apparent years.
He wore a simple combination of a black buttoned down shirt and clean boot cut jeans without any adornment. On his feet he wore simple black sneakers that allowed him to circumnavigate the room without sound.
There were several others in that crowded room dressed in a similar manner. Men and women mostly in their early to mid-twenties. The careful observer could discern that these patrons would occasionally glance in the direction of the boy, who with an almost imperceptible nod or shake of the head would approve or reject some proposed action.
The quiet boy by the wall didn’t just watch the room, he controlled it – and everyone in it.