Can you guess where I am?
Most of us are casually dressed, though others wear business attire. Everyone seems intent on his own agenda. I write in my notebook; others read newspapers or books or sip drinks. No one smokes, of course.
Enough clues to hazard a guess?
If I didn't know, I'd think about a couple of places, not necessarily the obvious.
How about a few more clues?
An amputee--a veteran?--sits in a wheelchair. A priest in a long black cassock strolls by; then a monk in a brown robe and sandals. No one seems to notice them except I--who am carefully cataloguing each enounter in my notebook. Around me, people text on their cell phones or tap the keys of laptops.
Is it becoming more apparent?
Let me see if I can throw a few more ideas your way.
A blonde man wearing a sports shirt pushes a stroller with two young children. Following him is a woman in a long dress and head scarf. She carries a basket. Then I see another man--not with them--carrying a small drink cooler.
Think you know, huh?
There goes a 'bicycle cop'--he wears a helmet but no discernible sidearm. Two young boys with partially-shaved heads and spiked 'mohawks' make me mutter a silent Yecccch and wonder what they'll look like by the time they are teenagers. A man with a beard and a ponytail stops and looks around, then scratches...well, where he shouldn't scratch in public. A young man, obviously mentally disabled, smiles broadly and offers to shake my hand.
I think you're narrowing it down now.
One more observation...
And then I see her--the perfect prototype for the story I've been turning over in my mind for a while. Her graceful body glides by purposefully, head erect on a long slender neck, silver hair pulled back into a neat bun belying her younger features. Her skin is the color of rich cocoa and sets off the simple black suit of a flight attendant...because, yes, I am in the airport waiting to board my plane. I penned a hundred notes, probably useless, until I saw her...and I'm glad I was watching because she is Cordelia, the beautiful, gutsy heroine of the as yet unwritten The Legacy of Diamond Springs.
In truth, these observations were noted on two different occasions; I simply combined them for this blog. My purpose was two-fold...first, I write very poor descriptive passages. I keep meticulous notes on my surroundings in various places but find it difficult to translate them into a cohesive passage that makes the reader feel she is indeed in that place.
I am also a people watcher, looking for that perfect visual image of the character whom I know so well--except for how she really looks until I actually see her--and the lightning flashes as I take a snapshot to be saved in my mind. Hopefully, readers will know and believe in my characters even if I don't adequately describe the setting.
How do you "see" your characters? (And if you have any tips on writing good place descriptions, have a heart and share...)