If writers are more observant than other people, which seems likely, their craft may be continually fed by the details, the ephemera, the detritus of life’s events. Authors may unconsciously employ the trait to craft and tweak their work.
On the other hand, pickpockets are probably more observant than the regular guy on the street. They, too, employ their powers of observation to do their work.
Now that we’ve established the wide spectrum of society in which the observant can flourish, let’s hone in on the writers’ use of the skill.
A skill it is, one that may arise at a young age, but one that also sharpens with use. It is a considerable tool when combined with good recall or spectacular note-taking ability.
An observation noted is one that can be recalled and used with flavor and wit.
I try to write down odd or humorous things I see, if only to provide color in my dark stories of murder and mayhem. Once, in a mountain resort town, I followed an old car in traffic. Bored by the delay, I noticed the car sported a sign warning ‘CAUTION! STUDENT DRIVER!’ When the driver pulled ahead slightly, I noticed the tailpipe was the size of a coffee can. Out came the pencil and notebook.
As a teen, I worked in a mountain town as summer help. There was a rumor of a guy who lived in his car, which was stuffed with junk, and held a dead calf in the back seat. It freaked out every teen who heard the story.
One day, we saw him! He existed. The rusted blue sedan, paint job long oxidized, was crammed with junk. The windows were filthy. But as he drove slowly past, I peered into the back seat, almost fearful of what I’d see. It was stuffed with trash, newspapers, boxes, but no calf, I am happy to report.
Writers can sometimes be in a crowd of people and feel an undercurrent or see two people communicating in subtle ways. They can spot the unhappy face in an ocean of joy.
Then again, writers can simply be in a crowd, enjoying the event like everyone else.
Nothing wrong with that.
Just look out for pickpockets.