An endless fascination with people
“An endless fascination for others is a prerequisite to being a novelist – despite the common view of novelists as egocentric and self-absorbed. The self-absorption comes when you are at your desk writing. The rest of the time, you need to be pathologically curious.” from A Novel in a Year by Louise Doughty.
I like that.
“Pathologically curious” about people. A novel needs to be occupied by people. Sometimes lots of them. You can’t write about people unless you know about people. Unless you have a curiosity about people you will struggle to portray people effectively in your novel.
Take some time out to visit the local shopping centre, coffee shop or any place where people congregate. Observe the people you see. Take a notebook with you and write down some descriptions of people. Write a sentence or two about a dozen or more people you see. Who are they? Where did they come from? What are they doing here? What hardships have they endured? Why is that person bright, happy and bubbly? Why is that mother frustrated with her child? What events have impacted upon that stooped old man hobbling along the path? Why is that young man walking with such an aura of confidence?
Give the people you see a story. It may be far removed from reality but that is the power of imagination. Use these story outlines as the basis for characters in your novel. If you can’t fit them in, or they are just plain wrong for your plot, don’t despair. They could well be used in a short story, or even a poem. Never throw away any draft writing; you never know when it can be used.