Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Quick Take: What do your characters notice?

Written By: Jessica Morrell - May• 01•14

I’m working on a two-part column about voice in fiction. I’m hoping to help writers master voice and get closer to their characters. Which got me thinking–what people notice tells us a lot about them. When my father visits the Northwest from the upper Midwest he notices that there are a lot of SUVs  and foreign cars here. Portland looks Bohemian to him and he cannot figure out how one city can support so many restaurants. My mother notices the houses and neighborhoods, I notice flowers, trees and sky. I sniff the air a lot.  I notice lies. Child's hand in mud

When I was pregnant with my daughter I noticed other pregnant women. Now I notice children the same age as our youngest granddaughter. My friend Jay notices hitchhikers and people on sidewalks. When we go to parties or gatherings I notice dynamics between people and how the place is decorated. I remember the food. He notices  book collections and remembers if someone is kind to him or rubs him wrong; if people seem to be doing okay or struggling financially.We both notice bird antics and bird calls.

My friends in recovery notice addictive tendencies.  My foodie friends and I notice new ingredients when we shop for groceries, trends in the industry. My neighbor Max, aged five,  notices cats and tiny, magical aspects of nature like moss, buds, stones, and twisted twigs. His sister Gigi notices small mysteries and sees stories in everything.

Learn what matters to people and translate it to storytelling.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart


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