Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I See Fictional People

I'm writing this in an airport (alas, I'm not traveling to RWA National in Anaheim) while watching the people around me.

A young couple with a child of about four pass by. I decide they're European by the cut of their clothes and the look of their shoes. They're probably from Nebraska, but when I make up back stories for strangers, I get to pick where they're from. I get to name them, too. He's Dieter, and she's Lena. Their little girl is Doro.

Here comes a thirtyish woman in a black jersey shift that skims her knees. A bright green cardigan lends a shot of color, and the black patent-leather flip-flops on her feet sport a flower detail—a simple and smart travel ensemble. I call her Kim and decide she's going to a reunion with her college roommates.

My mother, who's in her eighties, bemoans the passing of the glamorous era of airline travel. She remembers dressing in her best to fly. Nowadays, people dress to pass through security with the minimum of hassle. Who wants to remove a belt, jacket, and jewelry?  Who wants to cope with fussy clothes when packed sardine-like in coach?

I look up and see a father wheeling a tiny girl in a stroller. The tot hunches forward and looks left and right, delighted by the lights, sounds, and people. I'm delighted by her—and by the pink Mary Janes on her feet. I dub her Sophie.

My flight's been called, but before we board, a crew member asks for two adults traveling together and qualified to sit in an exit row seat to volunteer to move there. Two men who look like college students step forward. One of them is rail thin and is wearing a travel pillow like a puffy collar. Despite the pillow, he exudes a wiry energy, and I think he could handle an emergency landing. I name him Danny and decide he's on his way to Houston to visit the Rice University campus because he wants to transfer and change majors.

Uh oh, time to board. I stop writing but continue to people-watch. Kim and Danny may show up as characters in one of my stories. So will the pregnant mom who's been so patient with her fidgety toddler.

For a writer, there are lots of advantages to showing up two hours before a flight.


Louise Behiel said...

Pat, I thought I was the only one who does this! too funny. the other thing I do is make up stories for the emotions on their faces and in their body language. time always flies while I'm waiting. LOL

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

I make up stories for strangers' emotions and body language, too, Louise! Yes, time flies--the big advantage to a writerly imagination. Enjoy the rest of your summer.

Jennette Marie Powell said...

Being a writer means never having to say "I'm bored." Even if there's no one around, you can always plot some fictional mischief. :) Oddly enough, I don't do this much with people-watching - what I love about traveling is there's time to read!

Coleen Patrick said...

I do the same--can't look at someone without wondering about them and then assigning them an identity/life.
Happy writing Pat :)

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

I love that travel gives me time to read, too, Jennette, but there's a reason I don't turn on the Kindle until I'm on the plane. If I got lost in a book pre-flight, the plane would take off without me.

There's a tee-shirt in "Being a writer means never having to say, 'I'm bored.'" And ain't it the truth!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Happy writing to you, too, Coleen!

I'm glad I'm not alone in turning psers-by into fictional characters.

lark Howard said...

One of the best things about traveling is people watching, Pat. We play the celebrity watch where we see people who look a little like a famous person and pretend that the real celeb. Silly, but fun.