Fear in Writing: Think Like a Writer

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Think Like a Writer

You walk through a museum, stopping to look closely at the pieces that appeal to you. But it is the other humans in the room who really intrigue. This man over here gets very close to each painting, turning his head this way and that so as to see every brush stroke. He squints his eyes and nods once when he has seen every inch of the work. He is satisfied, not in the art, but in his survey.
The young mother over there thought her daughter would cooperate for one hour while she took in some culture. She is acutely embarrassed that her three year old will not be quiet, but also aware that she should have known. For the tenth time she blows non-existent stray hair out of her face. It's obvious she is not used to failure. This is a blight on her record. The heels of her knee-high leather boots click noisily, drowning out her child's voice as they exit.

You are the last one awake in your house. It is late at night, so late that just one street light still burns on your road. It happens to be across from your yard so all shadows fall in your direction. The stillness is like a damp blanket, smothering all feeling, slowing all movement. And suddenly you are aware of how it must feel to be a murderer, a burglar, a stealer of souls.

This is what it feels like to be a writer. To think like one. If you know what I mean, I hope you'll share your experience. When I began writing fiction (most recently, just a few short months ago, to cut out all the creative writing I did in high school and college), I think I tapped into a part of my brain that had lain dormant. I opened a floodgate and lifted a lens to my eye through which I can see new worlds.


  1. Through my romantic writer's eyes its all about who fits well together. I'm for ever casting a romance in my head so I completely get what you are saying here. Now, in regards to your question about Tasha Alexander I like her stuff [I loved the one with the widow, 'And only to deceive', I think it was] even if my sister keeps telling me she's no Anne Perry. I've yet to read Tears of Pearl and the one before it and more than likely won't get to them until next summer.
    You take care.

  2. To see through a writer's eyes is to be alive. My story is exactly like yours, Michele--oblivious and muffled in a blanket until I started writing seriously and the whole world opened up. I love the feeling so much now I can't go back. I MUST be a writer.

  3. I know precisely what you mean! It really is quite interesting how - when I speak to other folks - they do not see, or rather listen, to these things. I enjoy (perhaps a bit too much) listening to other people speak. Their mannerisms, intonation, the way the phrase things, or try to keep their voice low. And fail at it.

    And then there is the imagination. The day dreaming I was so chastised over as a boy is my inspiration. Another excellent post Michele.. thank you.

    Oh, and btw, thank you for the award (: Made me smile, and coming from someone who's blog and opinion I've come to not just enjoy, but look forward to. I went with "The City Too Busy to Hate" for my sobriquet. I've heard that one tossed around enough that I hope it will be more recognizable. Again, thank you.

  4. I was sooooooooo hoping for responses like these! Thank you all for sharing your experiences and thoughts.

    No further comment needed from me.

  5. Thought provoking post!

    I think my writer senses come most alive in my perception of emotions in others. I'm pretty good at reading body language and facial signals. My students sometimes find it a little scary :) I'm hoping it helps me create realistic characters in my writing.

  6. I am that way as well, Jemi. But it's the translation that counts. I try to have several people withOUT that skill read my work to make sure I convey the emotions and nuances in many languages. Do you know what I mean?

  7. Great post, Michele!

    I think we *think* differently than other people. Everything is a story and it all ties into writing. I also feel like I'm looking at life through a lens...a couple of steps back, soaking it all in.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  8. Bonjour Michele! Thank you for stopping by my blog and your very kind note. Enjoyed your post - it is funny, I too like to observe others in places like museums and lost everywhere else - I find it so interesting. I will be back soon for more.

  9. Great post, Michele! I find myself looking around and wondering what words I would use to describe what I'm seeing. I've always been a people observer; it served me well when I was working in the theatre. Now I watch reactions and file them away.


  10. Elizabeth- We definitely "think" differently, and I wouldn't have it any other way! The lens is the perfect description.

    Bonjour- Glad to have you. Exploring and observing can bring all writers and bloggers together, no matter the genre!

    Elspeth- I would imagine your theatre background serves you well as a writer. My mother was (is) an actress and I learned so much from her about watching people and storing away what I saw. You must have enormous file cabinets in that brain of yours!


  11. Oh yes, as writers we are people watchers. We are poets, painters, reporters, talk show hosts.

    Every detail becomes heightened when I write. Colors are more vivid.

    You might like this series by writer Cassandra Jade:


    Different writers voice their version of what 'writing is.'

    Great post, and your descriptions within were so calming. Such a gentle voice you have.

    All the best,

  12. Thank you, Corra, and welcome! It is fun to be everyone and no one, I think.