Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Follow that Dog

People watching is good, clean fun--and good practice for a writer.

Say you're at the park with the kids. It's a new park downtown, with plenty of room and green spaces and seating and art. There are all sorts of people around, both with and without kids.

Two old men sit on a bench, angled away from one another... Three teen girls lay in the grass with their heads together, legs splayed out like spokes in a wheel, their hands in the air as they emphatically make their points... A young couple chases after a toddler who runs through the columns of an interactive fountain, squealing with delight... A dog wanders down the path, stopping to sniff at random bushes, carefully chosen.

That's what you see when you look. But don't just look; use this bucolic scene as a writing exercise.
Two old men sit on a bench, angled away from one another (what does their body language tell you? What can you hear in what is unsaid?)... Three teen girls lay in the grass with their heads together, legs splayed out like spokes in a wheel, their hands in the air as they emphatically make their points (what plan are they hatching?)... A young couple chases after a toddler who runs through the columns of an interactive fountain, squealing with delight (Are they happy? Is that their child? Does he have a brother or sister?) ... A dog wanders down the path, stopping to sniff at random bushes, carefully chosen (Where is that dog going?).
I challenge you to follow the dog. Look beyond what you're seeing and develop subtext. Every person has an interesting story. Every person will surprise you with a true tale of their own antics, but what stories can you create when you look around?

Give them story lines filled with the stuff your own writing is made of--conflict, mystery, intrigue, romance, pain, compassion, redemption--you never know where that dog will take you.

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