January 29, 2019

Does Observation Help A Writer?

By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief, Southern Writers Magazine

I like the word ‘Observe’. To me it has a type of flair than intrigues me to want to dig into the word to gain more understanding and knowledge.

When I walk into a room, I observe the people in the room…what they look like, how they are dressed and facial expressions. The second thing I look for is who do I know there. If no one, then I make it a point to look for someone that seems to enjoy talking. I then make it a point to introduce myself to her. The talkers are normally the ones who are delighted to tell you about everyone there. They leave out nothing. After about twenty minutes to a half-hour, I feel like I know each person. 

Which then of course makes it easier for me to go around the room, introducing myself, and by sharing some things I learned about them they are friendly and open themselves happily to talk to me.
If I’ve observed correctly, I now have an entire group of people that I can write down tidbits of dress, expressions and dialogue to use eventually in stories I write.

But observing the people in the room, is only one area of observation. Then I like to observe the room by taking in decorations, color schemes, furniture and lighting––which gives me insight into the owner’s personality that I can use to weave into one of my character/characters.

After observing these two, I turn to observing the food. The food is important because you learn more about your host preferences for a function. They may hold several different functions or parties a year, and they will not serve the same things. This helps give me a deeper understanding of that person. Again, these are things that can be created in your characters too.

Observation is a great tool for writers. It opens the readers mind to the opportunity to see what you see, hear what you hear, smell what you smell, and feel what you feel. It is like they are right there in the room, with the character or characters––experiencing the things your character is. They are no longer separate from your story but one with it, they are now in that world.

When I finish a book and I am transported back into my reality, I am sad I have finished the book. I go for days recalling scenes, dialogues, characters of the story, wishing there were more to read. That is when I know the author of that book is an excellent writer who drew me into the story and kept me there. You can be assured I will buy more of the author’s books.

So next time you go out, be observant. Wherever you go, keep a notepad so you can write down all you observe for your writing.

Happy Writing.

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