Friday, May 7, 2010

How writers see the world

If you're a writer, do you feel like you see the world a little differently? I think most writers manage to blend in reasonably well with the "real world", though we largely tend to live two lives, the real one and the one full of characters and plots and settings (and this can be true even if you're a non-fiction writer).

Ever found yourself overhearing a conversation (or even taking part in one) where you have the resist the urge to pull out a notebook and jot down a snippet of dialogue? (I've done this to a friend of mine several times because she's always spouting something catchy, and she rolls her eyes at me. But she's a good friend and she tolerates it.)

Ever purposefully listened to some acquaintance or co-worker (or did a quick rewind on a scene in a movie) because you just caught something about that person - their mannerisms or voice - that might help you with characterization?

Ever been on vacation to a colorful city or a beautiful National Park and find yourself mulling over the possibility of using it for a setting? (This happens to me a lot because I am by trade a geographer. I am trained to look for the shape of the land, and the culture, and unique things that stand out)

Ever sat down and spent several minutes really studying an object - a room in a house, a person's picture, a flower - so you can be sure you avoid cliched description and produce something original?

I wish I did all this more often - that I had more of an observant eye (and ear) that I could catch more of all the rich details that pass before me. Not only does it enrich my writing, but I think it also really enriches life in general. Life is in the details/writing is in the (specific) details.

How do you "see" as a writer? Does your job/hobby/other passion give you a different perspective as a writer?

Here's a few writing blogs I've discovered lately that got me thinking about how writers see/hear the world.

Punk Writer Kid has a humorous take on eyes, not just how writers describe eyes but the eyes of the writers themselves

Annie Jones Joy Writing Through Life posts about the importance of listening. Awesome quote: "If you want to produce something worth putting out into the world, you have to stop and take in that world"

At Rants and Ramblings, Rachelle Gardner interviews author Dave Cullen, who says "to get to know each of your main and secondary characters, spend time writing in the first person of each of them. Write their journals. Listen to their music, watch the movies and TV shows they watch."

A Brain Scientist's Take on Writing. I'm sure I'd see the world & writing differently as brain scientist, rather than as a geographer.

Seeing Creative. A photographer's take on writing.


  1. I find myself mimicking the motions of my character as they go through a scene. I'm sure the mailman thinks I'm mad.

    Thanks for the links! The brain scientist looks intriguing. :)

  2. Oh, I have definitely stopped a conversation to jot down something interesting. My friends tolerate me. :)

    I really enjoyed this post.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog. It was a treat following it back to yours.

    Happy Mother's Day,

  3. Hello Margo! Thanks so much for finding my blog and following, leaving a trail back to yours. I loved this post! I do all of these things. Every moment can be inspiration for our writing, if we just tune in with intention. Hubby asked what I wanted to do tomorrow for Mother's Day, and I said hike to DeSoto Falls. Our family loves spending a day in the north GA mountains, but the writer in me is excited to capture all those juicy, sensory experiences and descriptions!

    You've linked some peeps I haven't visited before. Off to make their acquaintances! I look forward to getting to know you better through your blog and writing :)

    Happy Mother's Day!

  4. I love the idea of life enriching our writing. Sometimes it's hard to remember how much real life experiences can influence fiction and what we write for the world to see.

    One of my biggest joys is using outdoor hobbies as fodder for my stories. Hiking in particular because there's so much color, texture--it enhances all the senses--not to mention the peace and focus of mind it gives to really experience something I might be able to share.

    Have a great weekend!

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  6. thank you for this! I was wondering this and googled it and, voila, a post about this topic. Yay!



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