I have had the pleasure of doing many things over the years, but my favorites have been jobs or activities that allow me to meet other people. I would not call myself an extrovert, but people watching is a big part of being a writer (not to mention entertaining). How else are you supposed to understand not all people are the same? IMO, comprehension of that statement helps develop the ability to create vivid and unique characters.
Several years ago, living in the state of Vermont, I had such a position. I was able to meet many different people over the course of a day. True to my nature, I engaged in conversation with as many of them as possible. Granted, I typically tried to make the conversations about them and reveal as little of myself as possible. What can I say, I like to fancy myself a man of mystery.
It was during a conversation with a woman I’d encountered only a few times that I had my mind completely blown. I had been writing for a few years at the time, but I was still stuck in a world of short stories and hadn’t even considered the idea of writing a novel. As I said, I had encountered this woman a few times, bt she knew nothing of me really. Still, she spoke three words that completely caught me off guard.
“You’re a writer.” She said.
Of course, I was as flattered as I was surprised. I had not been published at that point and, as mentioned previously, she knew little of me, so I was dying to know what brought her to that conclusion.
“I watch you observe everything . . . people, conversations. You take it all in and I see your wheels turning. You are a writer.” she said.
The writer part of her statement remained to be seen. At that time I was just a fledgling and did not think I was anything special. I enjoyed it, but writing was a hobby that replaced music. The rest of her words, however, were true. I had always been a people watcher. I have lived in many places, including Europe for several years. I was able to meet individuals from so many walks of life and I found everyone fascinating. I have index cards filled with ideas that have been born of things I experienced in everyday life. People, thoughts, conversations… even then I had a catalog of character development material.
If you are writer also, you have likely spent hours online reading how-to and tip pages in abundance. You’ve probably purchased at least one ‘how to write a novel’ book. You may have even attended a workshop or a writer’s conference. If so, I am certain you have encountered this phrase at least once: 'writers write'. While this is true, I feel there is a less encountered phrase that holds as much bearing, if not more: ‘writer's live'.
I see people who walk with their heads down and, for all intents and purposes, with their eyes and ears closed. If asked, they likely could not describe the back of their own hand let alone a sunrise or a thunderstorm. The average person cannot name even one thing about each of the last six people they passed on the street. I do not say this in judgment of these people. Perhaps they have no need to know that much about the people around them. I only wish they realized how fascinating the world is.
Writers are a different breed. We watch, learn, absorb. We take every day, random things and develop plots, scenes and characters. We allow ourselves to become those characters in order to puppeteer their actions, their thoughts and guide them through our stories. Inspiration comes in many forms and writers search for it eagerly, more importantly, they allow themselves to be susceptible to it.
Seasoned writers can usually tell when something is written by a person who has not lived much. It is not always that person’s fault that they haven’t lived. Not everyone experiences heartbreak or other things at the same ages. I have met sixteen-year-olds who seem to have lived a thousand lifetimes of hardship. I have also met eighty-year-olds who seemed to have experienced as much life as a newborn. This is all part of what makes people unique and interesting. But, for a writer, a lack of life experience can sometimes be a nail in their coffin.
Panes of Blue is the story of a man with a front row seat for his view of the world. In some ways, it is auto-biographical. Through Blue’s eyes, I will show you things I have seen, introduce you to characters I have met, take you to places I have been, and hopefully make you feel things on an empathetic level. Some of what you read will be fiction, perhaps some will be reality. I will let you decide. And, if you ever meet me, ask. Perhaps I will tell you what is what.
Whether a work of fiction or a glimpse into my soul (or maybe even both), one fact remains the same: our world is a massive and wondrous place. Now I invite you to take a look through the Panes of Blue and see for yourself.