People fascinate me, that’s half the reason I write

I was walking my dog recently and she started playing with another dog.

My heart froze as the other dog walker looked at me smiling and said: ‘we’re walking the same way, we can have a natter as they play.’ 

I’m an introvert. I could happily go for days or weeks without speaking to anyone outside of my immediate family.

I’m generally bad at small talk… I’m awkward, I’m uncomfortable and I want it to stop. I’ll pretty much do anything to avoid it, in fact. 

But here’s the thing, this doesn’t mean I’m unfriendly or that I dislike people. A lot of people who know me might not even think I’m an introvert, as my nerves often display in over-talking, fast talking almost bordering on mania.

Thing is, people fascinate me, that’s half of the reason I write. 

But I’m not really interested in the surface chat people wear to hide themselves. It’s useful to witness these masks (as an author) but they don’t interest me massively on a personal level.

As luck would have it, quite often, people seem to pick up on this don’t put me through the trauma.

For example, here are 5 things I now know about the stranger I recently shared a 15-minute dog walk with: 

  1. She had her son by IVF 
  2. Her sister has a daughter the same age as her son
  3. She works full-time but her husband doesn’t help her out at home or with their son or the dogs and she’s exhausted 
  4. Her husband is scared of his boss (who doesn’t have children of her own) so he works from 7am to 8pm and rarely even asks for time off. Despite having her own career, she has to take all the paid and unpaid leave to keep on top of ‘life stuff’. 
  5. She works with a lot of alpha males and when they do Zoom calls, none of them seem to have children or dogs or other chaotic life things going on in the background like she does and she worries constantly that they’ll wonder why they employed her and get rid of her. 

She’s carrying a lot, this dog-walking stranger.

I left her and came home and she never left me… she’ll end up being the start of a character in one of my novels, that’s how it starts. 

One of the more unpleasant characters  in my second novel The Pursuit of Ordinary started out life as a guy I overheard in the gym talking to his mate saying: ‘I mean, I wouldn’t mind but she’s training to be a nurse and I pay for everything… and she’s having a go at me! So what if I slept with someone else while I was on holiday. Obviously it shouldn’t have occurred but I was drunk and the girl had come back to my apartment so I had to do her, didn’t I? What was I supposed to do?’

Outside of eavesdropping, people often tend to overshare with me. They tell me inappropriate things, they tell me personal things, they tell me things they might not have told people closer to them. 

Why is that? What vibe do I give off that says ‘come on down and unload’? 

Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE that they do.

I might not be good at the surface stuff, the small talk. But the stuff underneath that? I’m all over it.

Is this a common author thing, I wonder? I don’t know – what I do know is that some of this dog walking stranger will probably end up inside a character in my fourth novel.

So thank you, dog walking lady, whoever you were.

Note: updated from a previous article in 2021.


Life, Slightly – a novel

Absolutely beautiful. So moving and incredibly immersive. A gorgeous story – JOANNA CANNON

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