I do some sort of study for the majority of my characters. But for the little bits and bobs for those peripheral characters, the ones that are passing through, or even just those people who might catch your eye as they’re walking on past, I rely upon my people-watching addiction. Whenever I’m out of the house, waiting for the bus, walking downtown, going to the grocery store, or traveling (my favourite), I’m always watching.
You know how your mother told you to keep your shirt tucked in and ironed because someone might notice? That someone is most likely me. I won’t say anything, and I don’t bother making value judgements about what you’re wearing, but it might get noted down on a scrap of paper and filed for further reference.
Two quick descriptions from while I was waiting for the bus:
A professorial type, late 40s, trying to look hip with his carefully chosen jeans – not too worn, but still trendy – and violet sweater vest over a lavender shirt and matching tie. What makes the look are the square glasses and the tweed jacket with elbow patches. And just a bit of stubble with his salt-and-pepper hair.
A tall, stooped older man, scuffing his shoes on the sidewalk. He’s plainly dressed, but his clothes are ill-fitting. He’s holding a paper cup of coffee and at first glance it appears that he is muttering to it. Give him a robe and some rosary beads and he’d be a monk instead of just a bit crazy.