Creating Characters & Scenarios (While Sat In A Café)

“I’d much rather hang out in a café. That’s where things are really happening.”

It’s funny how different everyone is. Every single person has their own little traits. Mannerisms. Even the way they sip their coffee is different from the next person. It’s also funny that you don’t really pay attention to little things like this until you force yourself to ‘people watch’. This is exactly what I’m doing right now.

I’m currently sat eating lunch in a relatively crowded café on a Sunday afternoon. I’ve been meaning to carry out this people watching activity for a while to see if I can create some quirky characters from the wonderful beings of the Earth. I’ve got 4 tables in mind that I want to have a little fun with.

Scenario #1: Starring Mum, Child & Gravy Loving, Chip Stealing Dad.

Well, my first table of oblivious volunteers would probably act a lot differently if they knew they were being watched. Mum is very ignorant. She’s talking to her child whilst gormlessly staring at her phone. Her child is banging some item on the table and is completely ignoring Mum’s instructions. Absolutely no reaction from Mum. She has no attention on him, probably why he’s making a racket to try and get a reaction. Hmm, here goes.

Dad slid into the booth looking really happy about something. Jake was hoping it was something for him. A new toy perhaps, or a maybe a trip somewhere exciting. Dad always went above and beyond, but Mum seemed to lack in interest lately.

“Got gravy, got naan breads, got poppadoms.” Dad said, beaming at his ability to remember 3 out of the 7 items on today’s shopping list. He winked at Jake, stealing the biggest chip from his plate. Jake giggled and looked at his mother.

Mum’s eyes were fixed to her phone, unaware that her husband had actually spoken. She was always like this. Jake always craved his mother’s attention and he hated the way she ignored Dad and him. He had an idea.

BANG. BANG. BANG.

Jake picked up his toy truck and began to bash it repeatedly into the corner of the table. The sound got louder and louder, finally sparking the teeniest amount of a reaction from Mum.

“Eat your dinner.” Mum said monotonously. 

“I am!” Replied Jake, who showed no slowing down with his truck bashing.

Dad looked sternly at Jake. Without the need to say a single word, Jake knew he had to stop. He looked at his mother, suddenly wishing technology had never been invented.

people-watching-chips

Scenario #2: Starring Three Relatively Loud Friends.

Okay, so this group are being pretty loud but aren’t really being disruptive. They’re simply having a laugh, teasing one another and genuinely having a good time. What could have happened here?

“They turned all the lights out and the alarm went off! Didn’t it Alisha?”

Alisha stared at Catherine. How could she tell everyone? 

The group howled with laughter. Alisha could feel her face turning scarlet from embarrassment. It was a complete accident.

Catherine couldn’t keep in her amusement. 

“It’s okay, I’m only messing with you.”

Scenario #3: Starring The Polite Family.

Now this is nice to see. This family are always involving their kids in every conversation. There are no mobile phones in sight. Just a family who are really enjoying spending quality time together.

“What would you like to eat, Sammy? Go on, choose anything you like!”

Sammy looked at his mother in excitement. Could he really have anything he wanted? What about burgers or hot dogs? Or a big old pile of ice cream for dessert? His eyes scanned the pristine menu with eager eyes. So much to choose from.

A waiter scurried past heading for the next table. What he held took Sammy by surprise.

The biggest, roundest, most delicious looking pizza he’d ever seen! Filled to the brim with cheese, ham, pepperoni and tomato. But no pineapple. Pineapple doesn’t belong on a pizza.

“I’ll have that pizza!” Sammy said hurriedly pointing to next door’s plate.

“All that pizza just for you?” Laughed his mother. “That can be arranged.”

She looked lovingly at her son, whose eyes and smile reminded her of his father. She was the luckiest woman in the world.

people-watching-pizza

Scenario #4: Starring The Men In Black.

These guys look shady. Perfect! They’re innocently stood in the queue, both in long black coats, speaking in hushed voices. What could this pair have done in a fictional setting? What crime could they have committed that makes them so cautious to speak out loud?

The queue was moving very slowly; the perfect time to talk about tonight’s incident without any unwanted attention. Hopefully their long black coats weren’t enough to attract extra eyes.

“How long have we got?” Gregson said, barely moving his lips to avoid detection.

Smith sneakily checked the watch tightly placed on his right wrist.

“About 35 minutes. Is that enough?” 

Gregson sighed and looked around. No suspicious looks. No eavesdroppers.

“It’s going to have to be. We’ll have to eat on the move.”

Smith’s phone pinged in his pocket. He swiftly pulled it out into his hand and checked the notification.

“You’ve gotta be kidding me.” 

Gregson viewed the message and the two of them instantly turned on their heel and ran. They couldn’t waste any more time.


What a great little writing exercise! It doesn’t only force you to make up totally new scenarios from scratch, but it also makes you think about possibilities that would never even have occurred to you before. Even writing a little paragraph can really set those cogs working in your brain. Before you know it, you’ll have multiple ideas for new novels, characters or scenes, and you’ll not have a clue where to start. Gulp!

This can all wait for now. This November I’ll be taking part in NaNoWriMo. The challenge is to write at least 50,000 words in 30 days! I’ve already got a brief idea and a first draft of a chapter, but there’s so much prep to do! I’ll be keeping you updated with my planning progress up to November 1st.

If you’re planning to take part in NaNoWriMo this year and are a little stuck for ideas, give exercises like this one a go – you never know where your next bit of inspiration may come from 🙂

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Great exercise! You’re correct; we don’t lack for examples of human characteristics if we only make the effort to observe the world around us. A mark of a great writer is how observant she is and how real her characters. My favorite writers are Dickens and Hemingway; both wrote great characters.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. allyaldridge says:

    This exercise sounds like fun and I could really see the characters. Not sure if I’ll do NaNo this Nov but we’ll see…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! 😊 You’ve got plenty of time to decide! Have you done it before?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. allyaldridge says:

        Yeah, a few times but never met the word count. I did write 60k over the Xmas break once so I know it’s possible but Nov is a busy month for me. Any progress is still progress 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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