I was sitting in a Golden Corral restaurant, holding the table while my mom and brother were up getting food. I hadn’t been sitting for more than a couple minutes when a lady walked up to me with our drinks, set them on the table and said that if we needed anything, just to let her know.
A couple minutes later, my mom and brother got back to the table, and I got up to get my food. A little bit later, my brother decided he needed something, and I looked around to try to find the lady. I remember she was brunette. She had kind of a longish face. She had the Golden Corral uniform on. And that was it.
I was surprised that I noticed so little. Now, I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but I’m usually a lot better about noticing details. As a writer, I think you have to be. Otherwise how are you supposed to get a good picture of a character in your reader’s head?
I berated myself for not being able to pick her out. Yes, there were three other brunettes walking around, busing tables, getting drinks, etc., all wearing the same uniform. It was still weird, though, and I was mad that I hadn’t noticed enough about her – was her hair pulled back? her height? was she larger built? did she have nail polish on? – to help me pick her out of a crowd.
Since then, every time I have been in a restaurant, I pick at least one person and try to memorize as many details about him or her as I can. If nothing else, it’s an exercise for my memory, which leads me to be better at noticing and remembering details for the characters I write about.
One of my favorite things to do is to sit at a mall or a park – somewhere where lots of people congregate – and notice different details about the people there. Hairstyles, mannerisms, how they wear their clothes … not to say that nothing slips by me there, but I’m a lot more attentive, and then I usually take notes. I enjoy people watching, and while some may call me a creeper, I call it research.
So if you’re out there writing, take in those details. Details are what separate the truly fantastic stories from the just good ones.
Flower Photo/Graphic from Find Your Search.
(Original photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution by RC Designer)
Sherlock graphic from vectorportal.com.