We writers write because we have to. Whether it’s a journal entry or a manuscript, a rambling to a friend in an email, or a new post on Facebook. We have much to say about most topics whether anyone cares or not. Just ask us. I am obsessed with what motivates human behaviour and love to people watch. Do you write in your head wherever you go? We all know everyone has a story, and I want to know what it is. For my own amusement I whip up a version. What are the cues? What do facial expressions mean? Even misreading someone and making assumptions about her life is a “writing” practice. I love the surprises if ever revealed.
A friend and I traveled together during our single days, and, while waiting in the airport for our flight, we watched people and determined where they were going, with whom, and for what purpose. Since we were single we would assign points based on impressions from one’s dress, manner, companions, and features; you know, like men often do. Is he an 8 or a 10?
Okay, this is an aside but quite a humorous one: heading to Mexico for spring break, we watched and ogled four handsome, well-dressed men who appeared wealthy and sophisticated. They were classy and well adorned. No women friends and no wedding rings in sight. We decided that they were drug dealers heading to Mexico on a run. Who else would be dressed to the nines?
We conjured up a story of their misdeeds and dangerous episodes. We envisioned them meeting shady characters on lonely Mazatlan streets. Such fun. The week passed. We didn’t encounter them until our flight home. Guess what? We all were on the same flight. This time, fortified with margaritas from Señor Frogs, my friend decided to strike up a conversation with one of them in the safety of the airport. We ended up sitting with them on the flight back. Oh, how embarrassingly wrong had we been! David, who became a longtime friend, was politically connected and invited me to several fabulous events, one with our state governor. If he couldn’t use his opera or season symphony tickets, they were mine if I wanted them. My traveling partner developed a special relationship with one of the gentlemen.
She eventually married him and lived happily ever since. He was a director of a prominent social services network in our city. No drug dealers, thank you! I still enjoy my fantasies about people or situations; perhaps that’s the writer in me, but not assume I am anything more than a conjurer of stories. Stereotyping is useful in misleading your reader. Many of us do paint groups with broad strokes; I have learned to recognise biases in my everyday life and employ devices to exploit them in writing.
I notice how people dress, their facial expressions, and body language and can give me clues about them whether accurate or not. How enjoyable to be led astray. The unexpected is delightful. People standing next to you in a grocery store line may be chatty and friendly but lead a wicked life. Don’t you love the inscrutability of we humans?