Friday, January 25, 2013
You See, But You Do Not Observe
What I also love about the series is Sherlock's deductions, which appear briefly in writing over a person or situation stating a fact that he has ascertained by keen observation. A piece of lint, an impression in cloth, a subtle change in gait reveals clues that are so obvious to him that he remarks to Dr. Watson, "You see, but you do not observe." Commonplace objects and conditions tell the story for him. How amazing it would be to have his keen eye to help me to flesh out characters and scenes. It has challenged me to sharpen my own powers of observation.
In fact, I've put it into practice. Not really snooping, just watching. Last week I covertly peeked into the shopping cart of a 50-something man in the grocery aisle and deduced from the copious amounts of single-serving frozen dinner entrees and boxed macaroni and cheese that he would be dining alone. Possibly he was newly single judging from the men's body wash, men's shampoo, jug of mouthwash and new toothbrush. People don't usually run out of everything all at once. But it could happen, and it could be an interesting twist if his actions were misinterpreted - in a story, not in life, poor man.
Of course, physical clues are only part of the story. Intent and motivation are not easy to deduce or to show. The truth is, I 'see but don't observe' much of the time. It takes practice to read a person's body language and the clues they unwittingly give. Some good news is that I think that just getting older has helped to make me more observant. Maybe because I've seen a lot. And I bet you have, too.
So this is one part of how I plan to Carpe Annum in 2013 - sharpening my powers of observation to make strong, true characters and planting clues naturally within the story so they aren't contrived. How does 'seeing and observing' fit into your plan to seize 2013?