WARNING: The following contains shenanigans.
I don’t like the term “people watching.” There’s something distinctly stalker-isque about it.
I prefer to call it “spontaneous character building.”
When I’m sitting alone in a public place and I spot a person with a strange tattoo, haircut, or distinctive clothing, I’ll make up a story about them.
It’s a good mental exercise, especially when I’m blanking on ideas.
The trick is to be able to study people without them noticing.
Here are a few tips:
Keep an open book next to you.
People will probably think it’s less weird that you’re sitting by yourself, jotting into a notebook, if there’s another book right beside you. Oh, they’ll think, they’re studying for a test. The fools.
Don’t make eye contract
This is a good rule for introverts in general, but it’s especially important when you’re character building. If you make eye contact with the person you’re watching, they’ll expect you to talk to them. Do not engage.
Wear a large hat
It’s a scientifically proven fact that hats are awesome. Not to mention they are excellent for shielding your face from the person you are trying to character build. I recommend a wide-rimmed fedora.
Wear sunglasses even indoors
If there’s anything Yeezy has taught us, it’s that wearing sunglasses indoors makes you look cool and inconspicuous and not like an asshole. If you’re wearing sunglasses, people won’t be able to tell what you’re looking at. This leads to fewer awkward questions. Probably.
Get friends and use them as props
Getting friends can be difficult, but I recommend using free food as bait. Next, spread your friends around the table and converse with them whilst stealing subtle glances at your quarry. Make notes as you do so. If possible, take notes on your new friends as well. Their idiosyncrasies may prove useful in a future story.
I hope you found these tips useful.
Happy character building!