Thursday, September 29, 2011

In The Blink Of An Eye

I started thinking today about the power of observation after my hubby asked, “Did you see that hawk in the tree over by that barn?” Of course, I hadn’t. I’d been looking out over the back yard from our deck, but my mind wandered aimlessly. I couldn’t have told you what I saw if you’d held a gun to my head. I never even thought about the observation thing until I took the ten-week course offered by our local Police Department. The Citizens Police Academy was a real learning experience. I think I was the oldest person in the class. Not only did we go through some of the same training as the actual recruits, we learned how to “see” more accurately what was happening around us, in the blink of an eye. Very necessary for the safety of any police officer. It’s not as easy as it sounds. 

If you saw a robbery taking place, would you be an accurate witness? Do you remember anything unusual about the scene? The robber? Did you check your watch to record the time? Notice if there were any accomplices? Any strange cars in the parking lot? Could you identify the accused in a line-up and feel positive you were correct? 

In the blink of an eye, so many things can take place around you. It takes a skilled observer to pick out those small, but significant things. It takes practice in your every day life to become proficient. Look around each time you go out. What do you see in the small perimeter around you? In the larger area beyond that? Was it there before today or is it new? Observe people, too. Train your mind to remember facial features, clothing, unusual characteristics. Are you close enough to hear the person speak? Voice is important, too. High pitched, gruff, a lisp, all are good identifying factors.

In doing detailed research, writers who have learned to use their power of observation wisely will have a much richer story to keep their readers turning the pages. Adding bits of information about the story’s locale, the weather and its affect on the characters and their moods, sights and sounds and smells in the scene will heighten the reader’s interest and you’ll leave them eager to read your next book.

What are your special tricks that enhance your power of observation in the blink of an eye?


  1. Unfortunately, it takes total intense attention for me to observe everything around me. I am a whole picture person, a color and mood person. It takes a lot of concentration to observe closely, and sometimes I'm a bit scattered. I get lost in sights and sounds and movement. What were we talking about?

  2. Pat, your whole picture thing definitely works for you, given the awesome book covers you design. You add details and emotion in your own talented way. Don't ever change that.

    Now what else were we talking about? Oh yeah, my usage of affect/effect. Which is it, anyway?

  3. Great post! Got me thinking. As writers we naturally observe everything around us, but how much do we retain? I could definitely be better at this.

  4. Jennifer, thanks for stopping by. Yes, we observe what's around us, but do we "see" it all? Retaining anything in such a short span as the blink of an eye takes practice. The book recommended to us by the Chief of Police for studying is blink*The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. It's fascinating reading and I highly recommend it for everyone.

  5. Loved your blog Loralee! I think I might have to pick up that book. When I write, I can close my eyes and pick out things to use to make my scene come alive by past experiences, but I admit in everyday life I tend to look at things with a quick eye. Sometimes stopping to smell the flowers takes too much time...and that's sad.

    Thanks for helping me to rethink a few things :)