Swoon Author Cindy Anstey: The Art of People Watching

Hello Swoon Readers, 

Can you believe it? The release of Duels & Deception is just around the corner and I’m excited for you to meet Lydia and Robert and their best friends Cora and Cassidy—then we have Lydia’s odd family, a Bow Street Runner, a villain or two and Shodster, Lydia’s butler. So why this overly long listing of people you have yet to know? It’s an illustration of one of the most important aspects of a novel—characters.

“Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.”

Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

Far kinder and safer than basing your characters, quirky or otherwise, on members of your family, I suggest getting out, finding a quiet corner to sit in amongst the masses and watch. Just that… watch—no judgment. Watch and try to understand what is going on in strangers’ lives and how they use body language and facial expressions to covey how they are feeling… how you interpret what they are feeling. You will likely be wrong, but it is a great way to seed your imagination. And then have fun with it—develop a story, even a ridiculous story around the tableau.

Does the upward tilt of a chin indicate arrogance, or a stiff neck or… sun worship?

sun worship

Why does one girl lag behind a group? Is she shy, or tired or an unassimilated alien? Where is the finely dressed couple going? A party? A beauty pageant for double agents? 

And that dog. Why does he keep taking his ball to the young woman on the blanket when he clearly belongs to the young man by the path?

dog with ball

Oh wait, that one doesn’t need an invented story. Her glances, giggles and welcoming wave are obvious to all who are watching… especially the young man who is now sprinting toward her. 

Of course, if you want to be more traditional you could use a book like The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Linda Edelstein or The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi. Or you could combine the two.

I find characters develop faster when I name them—especially unusual names. I came across a great name the other day: Silliman. I see a mincing gentleman dressed in a flamboyant style—offering great quantities of advice on things he knows nothing about… but that’s a topic for another day.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the new host of characters in Duels & Deception!

About the author - Cindy Anstey

Cindy Anstey spends her time writing and adventuring around the world. She has lived on three continents, had a monkey ...

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