What's the difference between an ordinary mundane person and a writer? It's not immediately obvious. At first you might think there's little to choose between one and the other. It's true, a writer can often be found with a book in their hand, just like an ordinary person might. Indeed, a writer might also be reading the same book – writers read too, sometimes. But a writer might not be reading in the same way as the casual reader. A writer might be following the story in the same way but they could also be studying it; looking for examples within the narrative that impressed them or maybe making a mental note of the structure of the story. They might also be playing ride-along with the author; analysing the flow of each sentence and testing each word for suitability, for example. They could be wondering about the characters or considering the reasons why the writer chose the points of view they did, or debating as to why they developed them in that way and thinking how they might have written it if they'd been the one sitting behind the keyboard. There're a bewildering number of decisions to be made in each line and a writer never rests, not even when you think they're relaxing.
Of course, there are other aspects that aren't immediately obvious to a layman observer. A writer's never off duty. Not ever. Even when they've put the book you thought they were reading down they might still be at work. Because a writer is also the ultimate voyeur. They’ll watch people and they’ll listen and they’ll always take notes, storing their impressions for use in the future. Sometimes they'll wait and they'll mentally store the information but they'll always be paying attention to you. You could be innocently waiting for a bus, for example, and the writer could be taking you in; noting the clothes you're wearing, the scent you've put on, or the way that you spoke to that woman with the child. Everything that you do and their assessment of your reasoning behind it. They could transform you in a flash; you could so easily become an Edith or a Sue, or an athlete or a shop girl. You could even become an alien invader, preparing a campaign for an invasion from space. The journey you could be making could be taking you to China. Or to Kansas. Or to Scunthorpe. Or Proxima Centuri. You could be deciding to go home or just thinking of going for a coffee. Or you could be waiting for a stranger who might abduct you.
But a writer can do so very much more. They can strip you of your clothes or they can strip you apart; exchanging your fashion, your face or your mind. You could become be a role model for a character they're creating or feature as just a part of one, if there was only one point about you they noticed. Personally, I've written about the mouth of a woman I’ve seen; noting the shade of her lipstick and the shape of her lips. I've been inspired by the smallest and subtlest of details; transplanting each component and then directing the composite, my Frankenstein's Monster, willing it to do whatever I wished. Each word that you speak could be secreted away; the cadences or the tone of voice that you used, the colloquial terms, and the concepts and the content of the whole conversation. Even the gestures you made, the way that you walked, and the fit and the choices of the clothes you wore. Everything about you could be taken and used and could feature in the next novel that the writer might produce.
So, don’t be surprised if you notice someone watching you. We’re usually benign and will rarely confront you. In fact, for the most part, we’ll probably shy away and will redirect our attention to somebody else. Someone who’ll act naturally - because what’s the point in watching someone who knows they’re being observed?