I love going to a nearby plaza or sitting in a cafe or on the train and writing about the people I can see. I observe their posture, facial expressions, and actions, and imagine how they are feeling and what they could be thinking. It’s a great exercise for practising the connections between physical description and internal dialogue, and more broadly for practising empathy with others.
It can be nice to sit and see what comes to mind, but if you like, you can also try to answer the following questions as you people watch:
-Who is the most interesting person you can see? Why? Describe the interesting aspects of the person, and if you like, imagine their background story.
-What interesting bits of conversation can you hear? Note them down
-If you were to take a photo of the scene, or compose a painting, what would it look like? Describe that.
-What would happen if …? (There was an earthquake / a green-haired turtle tumbled out of a drain / everyone was suddenly blind / the woman’s girlfriend arrived by surprise etc)
-What would nobody else notice? I’m talking the little but amusing details, like the unusual energy of the old woman as she taps her feet impatiently waiting for someone, or the large number of taco wrappers in just one bin, while the others are empty.
-What does this small sample of life tell you about the bigger picture?
-If someone were people watching you right now what would they be thinking? What would they write?