’m on the train, my nonplussed reflection reflects back at me against a leaden sky. I’ve got my leg (the cuff still soaked from recent bus-train dash) tossed over my folded Brompton bike. As the backwall landscape rolls by, I’m paying special attention to the weedy gravel-bordered rain puddles.
Successful writing means you (the author) pays attention to the little details of life. You can describe a guy going out to his car for his morning commute, but if he picks his keys out of a tray (showing he’s got a living routine he follows) you flesh him out a little more. Sherlock Holmes’s whole gimmick was this, noticing the obvious details that make up lives. In Star Trek, the characters were fleshed out by nationality and accents, giving them a much more vibrant feel than a bunch of faceless white bread NASA-heroes. Details round out our characters. They make them stand out, and they give them depth.
Just giving them a repeating idiosyncrasy will do it, a turn of phrase, a cadence of speaking, a nervous twitch. These are the things readers enjoy discovering, the story within the story, the details that make life what it is.
And why was that author riding on a train through gloomy skies with his bike and wet pants, looking so intently at rain puddles?
I’m seeing if the rain is letting up for when I get out two stops down the line. I still have a ride ahead of me and looking at the puddles is the easiest way of telling if it’s still raining or not.
p.s. and yes, the rain slacked off by the time I stepped off at my station.