Writing Exercise Wednesday: Pick A Stranger, Any Stranger

Since most writers enjoy people-watching, I thought this week’s exercise should highlight our slightly creepy habit of noticing every last detail about perfect strangers. 

This might be something you already do. Or maybe you just stare people down, wonder about their lives, and never write anything about it.

It’s time to start writing about everyone from the creepy guy in your neighborhood who sometimes forgets to put in his teeth to the spunky belly-baring barista at the coffee shop. Why? Because with all the real life characters in the world, there’s no way you should ever be out of ideas for stories.

And I’m not talking about stealing a person’s life story and writing about that. This exercise is about imagining a stranger’s life…and hopefully letting that guide you into a bigger story.


Go to a public place like a coffee shop, grocery store, park, mall, dentist office, etc and choose someone who strikes your fancy. Sometimes choosing someone totally different from yourself makes the process of imagining their life more interesting. Write a sketch about that person. It might be a scene from their life, a character outline, a list. Whatever– just imagine what their life is like. What’s their house like? Who do they live with? Why are they wherever you’re at? What do they do for work? Are they happy? What are they afraid of?



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