Have you always been a writer? Many of you are probably coming to writing from another job, or are writing while holding down a day job. Your day job may not feel like anthropology, or research for your writing, but if you take a few minutes each day and study your coworkers and friends, you are acting like an anthropologist.
Duke defines anthropology as, “… (T)he study of the human as at once an individual, a product of society, and a maker of history and culture.” Anthropologists spend their entire day studying humans in different ways. If you take just a few minutes to notice how a co-worker decorates her office, or talks about his kids, it can lead to great insight into how a character in your story would act–or better yet a breakthrough in a plot tangle! You don’t have to be an anthropologist to work like one.
Start a writer’s journal to keep notes about what you notice. Take it with you everywhere, but you probably shouldn’t pull it out during dinner! You might realize that you’d love to add the way a friend absentmindedly tucks her hair behind her ear as a tell for a character while out having a drink, but it would be more polite to write that down after you get home.
A writer’s journal can also be home for descriptions of scenes, characters, and full plots. If you find a picture in a magazine that you think matches your character’s sense of style then paste the photo into your journal! Anthropologists also study how humans are a product of society, and how we make history and culture. You don’t have to be an anthropologist to study these things though, just by doing research in magazines that match the setting of your novel you study our society and culture.
Studying humans is also something Eric Brent does in The Right Guard, and he wasn’t an anthropologist either!