Inspiration for your Novel from People

Development of Novel characters - Not everyone is what they seem

Inspiration for your novel from people. People are a rich source of inspiration for any novel writer as they are all different. This is in addition to finding inspiration from newspaper headlines.

People are a rich source of inspiration for any writer because they come in all different colours, shapes and sizes, in all different ages, and with different physical, mental and emotional abilities.

All these variables are available all around you, and they are a freely available source of inspiration. A bench in a park or shopping precinct, sitting in a car park outside a store, waiting for a bus, tram or train. People are all around you, and all different. 

Stereotypes are easy to write about, but avoid them. If you’ve ever read a novel full of stereotypes, you will know they ruin a story because they are unbelievable. Stereotypes hardly ever exist. Have a stereotypical image of a French man, a German, or an Italian? They don’t exist. Take the French man as an example. You may live your entire life in France without seeing a man wearing a red beret and black and white top whilst holding a baguette in one hand whilst riding a bike with onions hanging down from the handlebars. Unless you were writing a comedy or farce, writing such a character into your novel would make it unbelievable.

Forget about stereotypes, but take a closer look at those around you. Is that homeless man really homeless? Perhaps he’s an undercover police or security officer. Is that woman pushing a pram really a mother? Perhaps the pram contains a gun or explosives. Is the weird-looking person with multi-coloured hair, multiple tattoos, a ring through their nose and tongue, and torn jeans really a stroppy unemployed teenager? Perhaps they are the millionaire chief executive of their own computer game company they set up whilst still at school. 

The days when you could tell who someone was from what they are wearing are long gone. Nobody working in the city of London wears a bowler hat whilst carrying a black umbrella any more. Nurses are just as likely to wear trousers as a dress, and police officers are just as likely to be running around in baseball caps than helmets.

When you see people, however ordinary they may look, use your imagination to find inspiration for your novel. Where are they going and where have they come from? What are they carrying in their bag or pocket? Are they single or married, gay or straight, happy or sad, fit or ill? Are they employed, unemployed, retired, at school, college or university? What hobbies do they have? What are their religious and political beliefs? What was their relationship with their parents like, and what is their relationship with their children like?

The questions are as endless as the people you meet, but never take someone at face value. Not all unemployed people look unemployed, not all elderly people have retired, not all millionaires dress the part. When you look at someone you don’t know, try to think about their back story and future. You won’t have a clue if your thoughts are correct, but that won’t matter. What matters is that you find inspiration for your novel from people by imagining their story

What you will do is train your mind. You will fill your mind with characters and plots, any of which may be useful to your future career as a writer. The woman with the pram? I’ve seen her. A few months after a terrorist explosion in Manchester, England, I sat on a bench in the centre of Manchester watching the world go by. Close by there was an enclosed area surrounding an open air market, with security guards checking the bags of everyone who entered. Several times I saw people enter the area whilst pushing a pram with bags piled on shelves underneath. On each occasion, the security guards searched the bags being carried by hand, whilst completely ignoring the bags being carried under the prams.

I’m still here to tell the tale, but my novelist mind considered one woman may have been a terrorist. The same thought obviously never crossed the mind of the security guards.

All of us are different. Nobody has had all the experiences I’ve had, and nobody has had all the experiences you’ve had. Our lives are different, our backgrounds are different, our educational achievements are different, our loves and losses are different. We are all odd in our own way. All fascinating.

Anyone you meet could be anyone! Rich-man, poor-man, beggar-man, thief. Member of parliament, distant member of a royal family, diplomat, terrorist, spy, alien, ghost, murderer. Anyone! 

When you next see someone you don’t know. Let your imagination tell their story, and you will have plenty of inspiration for your novel from people.

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