Are you a writing spy?
Dana of The Daily Dose is. In a recent blog post, she confesses:
“I’m a writer; I’m a spy. I listen in on conversations, even those I’m not a part of, and I write down the things that you’ve said. I watch as you tap your wedding ring on the dining table, run your finger around the rim of your wineglass, ogle the woman with Sarah Jessica Parker hair sitting across the room. Everything you do, everything you say, every gesture you make–I capture them all. Thanks for the inspiration.”
Writers, with the exception of elderly neighbors with too much time on their hands, are probably the nosiest people on the planet. We eavesdrop, investigate, scrutinize, and analyze. We are observation junkies and cannot help ourselves. This is a good thing.
Look at the details Dana managed to capture in that one paragraph just by being a spy. The tapping wedding ring, the Sarah hair, the finger tracing a circle around the rim of the glass. You see them, don’t you?
Details help readers connect to your imagined people and worlds. They make imagined things real. One of my favorite examples of this can be found in the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde. Even though the world in which the title character exists is clearly a fantasy, Fforde grounds the reader in reality with details. When Thursday sniffs at her toddler’s pants to determine if he needs a diaper change, readers (those with children at any rate) nod knowingly. Been there, done that. The little doses of reality make fiction more believable.
I encourage you to embrace your nosiness. Start your own spy journal. Take it with you and use it to capture little snippets of life. Revisit this Weekend Assignment and eavesdrop. Seek out gestures and expressions to bring your characters to life. Or go people watching without the people.
The details you gather will pay off in your writing.