Lately I've been really dissatisified with my fiction writing. Particularly my descriptions of people. For whatever reason, they seem weighed down by surface details and severely lacking in anything else. So I started a new daily project, for any day I'm working at the library.
1. Before leaving for work, pull a number out of a hat. This number is the library patron I will write about. Meaning if I draw 19, the 19th patron I help will be my subject for the day.
2. Spend no more than 10 minutes jotting down notes on the subject.
3. Start with, but don't limit myself to, physical details. If I noticed the patron before helping him/her, include those details as well. If helpful write about what help they needed (ie what books they checked out, needed a library card, etc). Feel free to make inferences and guesses on the subject's personality and history based on appearance, demeanor, etc. The use of dialogue is encouraged but not required.
4. If I help multiple people at the same time---ie checking out books for a mom with two kids---I may write about the entire group but the focus should be whoever hands me the library card or directly asks me for assistance. In the event I can't determine who the subject is, flip a coin.
5. The end product should be between 50 and 100 words. Edit and modify as needed to make it readable.
The rules might be altered slightly as I go, but I doubt by very much. I want to keep the choice of who I write about relatively random. It's easier to write about colorful characters---the wacky ones who are so much easier to write about. This exercise is partly about writing about normal people and making them interesting and distinctive. We'll see how it goes. If any turn out unusually well, I might post them.