I love watching people: young lovers at the mall, people arguing, children playing. I am fascinated with the way they walk, laugh, talk with their hands. The way they shop: the one who touches every item, the one who calculates each price per ounce, the one who recites brands into a cell phone.
Yesterday I was watching "The First 48" on television. (For those not familiar, it’s a show that counts down the first forty-eight hours after a crime and details the process of following clues.) The detective had family members (6 people) in a room and was announcing that he’d closed the case. “I brought you all here to tell you,” long pause, “we have arrested someone for,” another pause, “killing your father.” Six completely different reactions. All etched in my brain for future use.
My latest book, Final Masquerade, is a result of people watching. There’s a woman, about fifty, lives alone, in a car, on a piece of wooded land a few miles from town. She bikes through road slush with groceries strapped to the back. I’ve always wondered what circumstances caused her to live this way. I assume it’s by choice because she owns the land.
I attended a workshop where a detective outlined how our characters could evade people looking for them—by changing everything about themself. If they drove a Mercedes, drive an Escort. If they ate hamburger, switch to escargot. I imagined the woman from above—how she might’ve changed her life to end up living the way she did. The result is my character, Paige Carmichael. Age twenty, born to shop. She witnesses a murder and runs from the killer. She changes everything about herself. She doesn’t end up in such drastic straits but…
Well, someday I should stop the woman on the bike and tell her what a profound effect she’s had on me, and my character.