Learning How to Write by Watching People

When I attended ArmadilloCon I had the good fortune to see my friend Gabrielle Faust on a panel focused on how you can write better. One thing she said, and it’s something I have been saying and believing for a long time, is that you should watch other people to see how they act and move and behave and speak…and it will make your fiction better.

I completely agree.

This is one reason I rarely if ever watch any commercial television anymore. People don’t behave like that in real life. They don’t speak like that, move like that, interact with other people or behave like that. It’s clearly fake. And it’s so obviously fake that’s why I can’t watch it. Don’t even get me started on “reality” shows. They are even more egregious examples.

Go to a coffee shop and watch people. Or an airport. Or a grocery store. Watch how they move. Listen to the way they talk. Understand how they interact with other people and the world around them and why they do what they do. That’s what you need to use in your fiction. That’s what you need to study.

I mean, let’s get real. If you’re looking to television in the first place to learn how to write then you are already in trouble. Unless you are looking to television to learn how to write television scripts…in which case you are doing the right thing by watching a lot of TV.

But if you’re writing fiction, either story length or novel length, you can do a lot worse than sitting in a coffee shop and watching how people really behave. Writers write about people. You need to study people to write about them well. So go to the source. Study the closely, and use what you learn in your stories.

You’ll thank me later.

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for this!!! You’ve inspired me to to come from an authentic place in writing!

    Reply

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