Today I would like to welcome guest writer, Eric Hyzer Enjoy!
You don’t need to enroll in a writing course at the local community college to improve your writing ability. The most worthwhile and inexpensive—by inexpensive, I mean free—technique for boosting your writing skills is to strengthen your observational expertise. Moreover, there is a direct correlation between the capability to gather data from the surroundings and your proficiency at producing detailed and colorful prose; therefore, it would behoove you to develop keen senses.
Let’s begin by defining some terms, shall we?
First, when referring to senses, I’m talking about the five we all learned as children: touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste. Thus, any pedantic individuals out there will have to pardon me for such a simple denotation, but for our purposes, the basic five senses will suffice. Second, observation is the action or process of observing something (e.g., person, animal, building, automobile, sunset) to acquire information.
Now that we have definitions out of the way, I should discuss how this information obtained from your senses relates to writing. You see, before you describe a winter storm to readers, you have to experience it (sensory perception). It’s obligatory for you to feel the icy chill of the wind against your face, catch sight of the sleet coming down, hear the snow-rain mixture assault the landscape, smell the smoky coldness of the winter air, and taste the frigid moisture on your tongue. Otherwise, you’ll have no data to sufficiently convey the circumstances; in other words, your writing will lack the particulars. Sure, you could perform some online research, but it’s best to experience things firsthand to guarantee verisimilitude in your writing.
Unfortunately, most individuals hurry through the aforementioned storm without collecting the necessary minutia; however, as a wordsmith, you cannot afford that luxury because you need copious amounts of data. That’s why it is paramount to sharpen your senses by regularly (1) exposing yourself to a variety of novel experiences; and (2) by developing your capability to perceive everything around you.
How exactly do you perform these tasks? I’m thrilled you asked that relevant question since it demonstrates your willingness to improve your craft. And the most powerful way to answer that question is by providing some examples.
Example #1 (novel experiences): You and your significant other customarily go out to dinner at your favorite steakhouse on Wednesday, usually ordering the T-bone steak and a baked potato, washed down with a light beer. Not tonight, however, because you are committed to expanding your horizons. That’s why you take him or her to a new Mexican restaurant on Friday, where you instruct the waiter to bring you the spicy fish tacos and a shot of tequila. You make a note of the flavors in the food, the details of the establishment’s decor, and the music playing on the jukebox.
Example #2 (developing perception): You need to purchase Stephen King’s latest masterpiece from Barnes & Nobel. Now, typically you rush into the store to buy said book during your lunch break, getting back to the office before your leftovers are finished warming in the microwave. But not today, no, you are going to wait until after work to stop in. You bring along your handy writer’s notebook and take a seat in the back of the bookstore; subsequently, you begin taking notes, paying close attention to “everything” around you. (Take your time during this exercise . . . relax . . . enjoy the practice.)
Two middle-aged women are having a conversation regarding their children, so you document interesting parts of their exchange, unique speech patterns, and even their facial expressions. You notice that one of the ladies keeps shifting from foot to foot like she’s impatient. You jot that down, too. Also, a man just walked past wearing a concert T-shirt for a group that hasn’t produced music in the last twenty years. His cologne is applied a bit too liberally and hair styled so perfectly it looks unnatural. You get the idea so I won’t belabor the point.
And these pieces of information you collect can be altered, combined, or employed for inspiration to construct realistic settings and characters in your next project. The thing is, you need a panoply of data to create a personal database. Therefore, your senses have to gather details from the environment frequently, and the only way that happens is by highly developing your perception through repeated use. Let me restate that differently: it takes practice, practice, practice to enhance your senses.
So, in closing, I want you to remember that magnificent authors regale their audience by painting detailed pictures with words, thereby allowing the reader to live vicariously through their writing. The reason they can perform such a remarkable feat is that they continuously observe the world around them. It would be advantageous if you endeavored to do likewise.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eric Hyzer is a freelance writer, IT professional, and fervent reader. In addition to website and magazine content, Mr. Hyzer dabbles in fiction writing and has published short stories in the horror genre.