This weekend, I had a girls' night with some good friends including one I've only met online until now. It was a great night and a timely reminder that although it's easy to get caught up in writing the next word, the next line, the next paragraph, and the next book, it's also a great idea to step away from the computer and socialize with people outside of my direct family. Ask almost any writer and they will most likely tell you that they enjoy people watching. The reasons for this are multiple, but primarily going out and getting among people is a great opportunity to learn and to experience.
For example a writer might head to a cafe. Sitting at the table observing the people nearby, the writer might see the following people: a young mother, her long brown hair pulled up into a messy, high pony tail, the bags under her tired eyes seeming to grow larger by the second as she tries to coerce her child into eating the food she offers him; a cashier, tired after an early start and a long shift, forcing a polite tone into his voice as he takes a custom coffee order from a immaculately put together businesswoman, her black and white pinstripe power suit spotless and pressed even after day in the office. If her order of a tall, soy, caramel macchiato with no foam wasn't enough of an indicator, the hint of her unwrinkled, vivid blue satin blouse peeking out from beneath the jacket suggests that she demands the finer things in life and expects things to be exactly as she desires; the couple in one corner of the cafe who were sitting so close it was hard to tell where one ended and the other began, whispering sweet-nothings in one another's ears. All of these conversations take place at once, creating a din of noise that only just drowns out the clink of the cups and the hiss of the espresso machine. The freshly ground beans and constantly flowing brew fills the air with the rich and slightly bitter aroma of coffee, causing the newly pregnant woman walking by the outside to clutch her nose and move faster to get beyond the area where the scent was most concentrated.
This is the advantage to getting out and about. A writer can observe dialogue from a variety of different cultures and walks of life; see different body types and face shapes; and experience the tastes, smells, and sounds of real life. The trick to decent writing is to try to infuse these little details into a story because it gives the words an anchor in reality and allow to reader to apply their life experiences to build a better image of the world of the characters.
What was the last book you read which made you feel like you were part of it?