The power of observation is an important tool for all story tellers. For instance, when describing such things as colors, shapes, feelings or sounds, if the writer has carefully learned to observe these phenomena, she is then able to layer her descriptions.
Observing nature is an excellent method when studying appropriate colors and shapes. A leaf is not just green; it may be dark green, pea green or apple green. Heighten a color with vivid imagery by tying the color to an object with a more brilliant shade. I remember her because of her ruby red nails. By using ruby red instead of just plain red, the writer has layered the description and made it more picturesque. To the reader Colors are heightened when the author describes gradations or shades of a dominant color.
Shapes are important in descriptions of our characters’ facial structure and other physical features. Betty’s round eyes give her a perpetual look of surprise. When he is angry, Tim’s square jaw is more pronounced than ever.
Every emotion we experience is wrapped around a bundle of Feelings and so are those of our characters. Observe how people describe their feelings of excitement. I couldn’t sit down, I was so excited. How does it feel to be hurt? I felt deceived. What is an expression of grief? With my dad gone, there is an empty space in my life I cannot fill.
Sounds are often described as being like something else; like a gunshot or a car backfiring. It sounded like the baby was crying because he needed changing.
An author’s ability to make her characters come to life depends on the many little details that make each character unique. Observing how people smile, walk, talk or use their hands will be useful in making characters more memorable. Is her smile slow, hesitant, a quick flash of teeth, a wide welcoming grin or a grimace masquerading as a smile? A person doesn’t just walk. Does the character use long strides, mincing steps or favor one leg over another?
As an author learns to observe everything, she enhances her ability to build characters who are more credible and life-like. Look around the place where you are sitting. Observe carefully. What are some of the things you notice for the first time?