1. Dress “Normal”
When you head out to go a’watching, don’t dress in anything that will make you stand out from the crowd. Dress low key and “normal.”
2. Go Where the People Are
Restaurants and cafes are great for people watching. Malls are okay if you can find a place to sit where groups of people congregate. Anyplace where people may be stationary for any length of time is great. Avoid situations where you would have to follow people in order to hear their conversation.
3. Find a Comfortable Place to Sit
Following people will creep them out and may cause them to react negatively towards you. Instead, go someplace where you can sit and listen to conversations. Make it a comfortable spot, such as a park bench or a blanket on the beach, where people often go to sit and relax.
4. Wear Sunglasses
When people watching outdoors, wear sunglasses so that you can watch people without them knowing you are watching. Outdoor cafes are also great for wearing sunglasses and watching.
6. Hold a Magazine or Newspaper
People watching on the bus or subway can be lots of fun, but one of the tricks of the trade is to pretend you are doing something else. The people around you will feel more comfortable if they think you are busy and aren’t paying any attention to them.
7. Write Out Conversations
Take a pen and notebook along with you or use your cell phone to write out snippets of conversation you overhear. Sometimes these conversations you jot down can be used to open up the story of your next book or, even better, inspire a whole new book idea.
8. Write Character Descriptions
Write character descriptions of the people you are watching. Describe their dress and their mannerisms.
9. If You Get Caught
When getting caught people watching, I find that the truth is often the best explanation. If someone approaches you, asking what you are doing, you can reply, “Hey, I’ve got an idea for a book to write and I’m just out here brainstorming a bit. Looking for inspirations, and such.” Or you can tell them that you are doing character research for a book. Truth often works best.