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.