Wednesday, September 14, 2011


No one has ever accused me of being the most observant person on this planet. I trip over lint on the carpet!  I was in a minor accident once with a hit and run driver; I couldn't remember whether it was a car, a station wagon, or a pickup truck that hit my car.  Unfortunately my youngest daughter takes after her mother; she tripped over the welcome mat at her own front door and seriously sprained both ankles last week!

Oddly enough I do notice trivia and some not so trivial things around me.  Last week I observed a little girl at a salad bar scoop up some chocolate pudding and try to shake it onto her plate from the spoon.  It didn't fall off so she wiped it off with her fingers, then licked her fingers before jamming the spoon back in the pudding, again wiping off the stuck pudding with her finger, and licking her fingers once more.  She repeated this action half a dozen times.

 I noticed, too, the woman in the changing booth next to mine slip on her shoes sans socks.  I also noticed her feet were covered with athletes foot and she'd been standing barefoot on the changing booth carpet.

While getting my hair done, I watched in the mirror as the patron behind me had extensions added to make her hair appear fuller.  As the beautician pinched each extension with a little pair of pliers, I wondered how the woman getting the extensions could possibly wash, brush, or comb her hair with all that hardware in it.  She was excited about a date with a new man that night and I hoped he wasn't the kind who liked to run his fingers through a woman's long, silky hair.

The mention of hair reminds me of the time I sat in church and watched a young girl's hair turn from black to several shades of brown, blonde, and then to red.  All the variations in color were due to the way the sun struck the large stained glass windows high on the walls of the chapel.

Who knows, any of these small incidents could and the last one did ,wind up in one of my books. Some writers are more observant than my daughter and I are when it comes to obstacles to personal welfare, but most writers have a tendency to see little quirks, mannerisms, the unusual, trivia we can use to make characters more real, more endearing, or less desirable. It's the little things most people may not notice in real life that makes a character in a novel more real.

I couldn't tell you the eye color of any of my neighbors or most of my relatives, but in a novel this is usually an important detail. I have no idea what kind of car anyone, other than my husband or myself, drives. What color my sister's carpet is, is a mystery to me. There's a mural on the wall of my doctor's office; I'm not sure what it depicts, but there's a bird in it with incorrect proportions.

Why I have selective observation skills, I don't know, but being aware of small details around me has enriched my ability to develop characters and create scenes.  Why I don't notice a stair is two inches higher than I raise my foot, I don't know.

As for my daughter, blessed or cursed with the same problem, check out her blog sometime. She has very different tastes from mine in her reading and writing preferences, but she has a sense of humor that has delighted me since she wrote her first story about an inept dragon and an unusual princess.


Janice Sperry said...

I didn't trip over the welcome mat. I stepped on it wrong.

I do the same thing with noticing details. My kids do too. I guess it's in our blood. We get it from you. :)

Mindi said...

Oh, this made me laugh! Sometimes I notice everything and others I haven't got a clue what I just saw! And I have no idea the color of my sister's carpet either - and I lived in her house for 10 months! But I do know has had brown eyes. :-)

taylorfamily83316 said...

I had an observation kind of come upon me today. In our church building there use to be two wards, ours and the spanish branch. Starting today, the spanish branch and our ward now meet at the same time, and together. My observation actually was kind of a strange thing that I watched happen as people were trying to sit in their specific spots during sacrament meeting, getting there and low and behold, someone was already sitting there, possibly because that is where they sat during their normal sacrament meeting. It was probably a moment of shock, that someone else was in "their" spot, then possibly a moment of disbelief that someone would dare sit there, and then the panic probably set in, as to where am I going to go now? It will take some time for adjustment by we will once again find a new normal.

kristi said...

Jennie, I talked to you at BYU Education week about donating your papers to BYU. You said to leave a message on the blog telling you that I had sent you an email. I look forward to hearing from you.

Kristi Young

Sara said...

I think I just swore off salad bars! Thanks for making me smile :)

Runaway Bridal Planner said...

This made me laugh too! I totally get what you are saying, when I go to a fast food place for instance I will notice if the people handling the food sneeze or cough, or if the person handling the cash then goes and dishes the fries. But I couldn't tell you what any of them wore or what color their hair was:)