People Watching #6

Have you done any people watching lately? The first time we looked at Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. Then we examined a 1930s Charles Walton photograph. After that, we speculated about the dynamics of two girls and a guy at the dinner table. Then we viewed the bicyclist in a race and people traipsing through a winter snow.

As usual, I loved reading your comments—the ideas evoked by those pictures. The backgrounds, personalities, and situations of each person.

Aside from knowing that a picture is worth 1000 words, a picture evokes 1000 stories.

If I showed a picture to a dozen students and told them to write a story based on it, I got a dozen unique and varied responses.

If I did this with 1000 students, guaranteed, they’d each have a different combination of character interactions, dialogs, motives, and plots.

As I’ve said before, I revel in this creative diversity. We each inherently have this innovative ability because we’re made in God’s image. See “Chickens at the State Fair.” Whether you’re a story writer or not, your own creativity can shine with a little people watching.

What story is being suggested?

Take a few minutes to immerse yourself in this picture. Then think about these questions. There are no right or wrong answers! You’re calling the shots.

(If you happen to know who this guy is, pretend you don’t!)

•  Who is this guy in the plane?
•  Who is the person next to him? You can see a third hand, bottom right.
•  Do these two passengers know each other?
•  What is the setting (approximate time, date, and place)?
•  What is the tone/mood/atmosphere of this particular day?
•  Is this his first time in a plane or not?
•  Is it his first time flying a plane or not?
•  What has led up to this day?
•  Where are they and where are they headed? Why?
•  What difficulties did he face before getting in this plane?
•  What is his personality?
•  What are his key character traits?
•  What is his mood?
•  How long will they be in the air?
•  Does he have anything to prove to himself, family, or others?
•  What are the relationship dynamics between the two passengers?
•  What is he thinking at this moment?
•  What is a typical day like for him?
•  What does he aspire to?
•  Where does he wish she was instead? Or is he happy to be here?
•  What is the title of his story?

So many story possibilities! All in one picture.

So . . . how would YOU answer some of the questions above about this picture?
What story do you see unfolding?

I welcome your comments below!

Ever musing,


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11 thoughts on “People Watching #6

  1. I suppose we often filter what we see through our own life experience. I took my kids up to the Air museum in Oshkosh a couple of years ago and watched them go up in a little two seater with a pilot. He even let them fly for a little while. So I see this guy, Jake, having his first lesson in how to fly an airplane, and then I see the pilot having a seizure and Jake trying to fly the plane alone, getting off course, lost, and landing in a lake. Then pulling the pilot out and swimming him to safety as the plane sinks because he was a champion swimmer in high school. The story makes the local paper, and Jake is recruited into the Navy Seals and goes around the world having adventures 🙂

  2. Well, my imagination has for some reason journeyed elsewhere today. (although this is a GREAT exercise in creativity!) But I can very easily imagine the young pilot’s mom somewhere on terra firma and praying like crazy that he will come in for a safe landing and decide to take up stamp collecting as a hobby.

    1. She’s not quite sure how to balance expressing her desperation for his safety, and her knowledge that the more she tries to control him, the more he’ll rebel. The result has been a series of awkward comments tangentially related to stamps.

    2. Yes, stamp collecting sounds a bit more tame. And possibly cause for some friction between mother and son! But friction makes for great stories.

  3. There is apprehension and humor on the kid’s face, telling me that he is fairly new to flight – he got into flight school to impress some girl because all the other cool kids play baseball, and he’s never enjoyed having a projectile flung at him at 70mph. The air currents’ influence on the small Cessna he’s flying make him a little sick, and he’s just expressed doubt as to whether this is for him. The flight instructor beside him, not much older than he is, has just told him a dirty joke to lighten the mood. The kid is going to be fine, especially because soon he’ll be able to take that girl on a date that will blow the socks off of all the other kids.

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