Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Step Up Your Observation Skills

As a writer, there are many key skills to develop. One of these skills is observation. Whenever I travel, I love to take a few quiet moments in the airport and people watch. Do you? It’s always fascinating and I can always learn something from the observation experience.

Throughout my work day as an editor and writer, I’m fairly isolated. I have my computer screen and my office environment. Other than on my phone and email, I do not have a great deal of face to face interaction with others.

What are you writing? Fiction? Then you need to sharpen your observation skills and build those observations into your characters.

On Right-Writing.com, I have an article from Laura Backes, Editor of The Children’s Insider about the Secrets of Great Characters. Part of her article says, “If you want to write convincing characters, I think it’s essential that you observe children of different ages close up. Make that children who aren’t your own; kids you can look at objectively. See how they interact, how they treat each other, how they treat the adults in their lives. Grown-ups have different purposes to kids at various ages, and the adult characters in your books should fill their appropriate roles. Each year of growth brings dramatic changes, and the division between boys and girls in social situations gets wider by the month. As a writer, you can’t simply increase the age of your characters by a year without reflecting numerous transformations that year brings.”

Laura’s words are true for the children’s writer—but also true for fiction and nonfiction. Whatever type of writing you are doing today—it will usually involve storytelling. The great magazine writing involves telling a good story and showing a character” or a person to the reader in your writing. It’s a challenge for each of us in our work as writers and editors. One key is to work at learning more each day and continuing to grow in your writing.

What are you doing today to grow your observation skills?

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1 Comment:

At 12:13 PM, Blogger Karen Lange Left a note...

This is an excellent point. I've always thought writers needed sharp observational skills. One of my early assignments years ago at the Institute of Children's Literature had students observe children and then write a story about them. It was a great exercise that taught me a lot.

I agree too, that most principles for fiction apply to nonfiction as well. There are so many things we can do to sharpen our writing, and observation is a free and easy way to do so. Appreciate this great reminder!


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