I played Social Butterfly yesterday. It was one of those days when I moved from one event to another all day. I went to Book Club in the morning which was a group of only five. We gathered on the hostess's screened-in porch with our coffee and discussed the book, Mao's Last Dancer--one I wrote about on this blog recently.
After lunch, I attended a PEO meeting with 30 other women. We had a social time, followed by a patriotic piano/songfest program, and then the business meeting, ending with more social time. I exchanged news with many people, heard lots of interesting tales.
At five, I picked up a friend, and off we went to a hospital auxiliary social hour. $5 allowed you one drink and appetizers. The noise level of the chatter would have hit the top of a sound checker, but again, women were catching up on family news, job happenings and more.
On my way home, I thought about the many stories that had surrounded me all day. Women can be witty, so I also heard some memorable remarks. It would have been nice to walk around with a notebook to record some of them. Might be a quick way to make people clam up, though.
The stories I heard from the few people at Book Club would have made good material for a fiction story, even though they were all factual. Some of what I learned at the afternoon meeting was fascinating enough to end up in a book. The point is that there are stories all around us every single day.
A writer can gather story ideas and pieces of ideas while grocery shopping, sitting in a doctors's waiting room, or at a local coffeeshop. When you see or hear something that might be useful in a future story, jot it down. Keep a small notebook in your purse or pocket. It's all too easy to forget about it once you get home.
If you see an interesting looking person, write a short description to use for a character in a story later. If you witness a conversation that is caustic, romantic, or even leading up to a physical altercation, make a memo to yourself as soon as you can. Watching real life developments makes your story characters and situations more realistic.
Key to doing this is to train yourself to be observant. When you're out doing errands or at a social event, look with a writer's eyes.