A word about observation


Human Behaviour

He caught me staring. My parents had frequently reminded me staring was rude, so when his eyes engaged mine, I looked away, leaving only an embarrassed smile in the space between us. But it was impossible not to snatch another furtive glance. This time it was his turn to smile. I dropped my gaze and tried to focus on the page, searching for the line of music in my hymnbook that everyone was singing except me.

I was a flustered teenager, standing beside my boyfriend during a Sunday church service, fascinated by the tall sandy haired young man in the back row of the choir loft, but totally unaware that he was my future husband. For days afterwards the visual encounter was imprinted in my memory. I knew little about him except that he was the minister’s son and the leader of the church’s youth group.

Later I discovered that he knew even less about me, but during those stolen glances it had occurred to him one day he would like to marry me! And three years later he did.

How is it our powers of observation can instill reactions and emotions with such life-altering results? Observation is more than mere looking. It’s seeing beyond the visible, discovering motivations before they’re obvious, and recognizing the attitudes behind actions. It’s taking in the view and examining how it relates to one’s presence.

For writers, observation is critical in the creation of our characters, especially the protagonist.

“Your protagonist is your reader’s portal into the story.
The more observant he or she can be,
the more vivid will be the world you’re creating.
They don’t have to be super-educated, they just have to be mentally active.
Keep them looking, thinking, wondering, remembering.”

Janet Fitch

This is what is meant by using Deep Point of View… writing from within the mind of our characters and seeing through their eyes.

Can you think of a passage in your current work that makes use of a character’s power of observation in such a way that readers will be able to “see” the scene for themselves?

~  ~  ~

5 thoughts on “A word about observation

  1. Cate Graham says:

    What a great story about you and your husband in the early days when your relationship consisted of stolen glances with so much meaning in each look. Love it and of course you’re always good at relating it to the writing. Deep point of view is certainly the way to go if we want our characters to be believable. It’s much more fun to write, too, when you’re so inside the heart and mind of the character, you become them.

    Great post as always!

  2. What a sweet story!

    I read Jill Elizabeth Nelson’s e-book on deep point of view. One of the key elements is not to name the character’s emotion but express it through their actions. It also helps resolve show-don’t-tell issues.

    All of these techniques give the story a more natural flow and help the reader get into the character’s head. I think you gave the perfect example. 🙂

  3. Carol says:

    Thanks for your feedback, Cate and Susan. Certainly becoming the characters makes writing their story more exciting. 🙂

  4. Shari Green says:

    I love this story…you and the minister’s son…lol. God knew what he was doing putting you two in sight of each other. ❤

    "Keep them looking, thinking, wondering, remembering." — great line to keep in mind! *jots it on a sticky-note* Thanks!

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