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?

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