By James M. Jackson
One thing I find fascinating is discovering what other people notice. When I walk with friends in the woods, I am most attuned to flying things: birds, butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies, and recently, different species of bees. I notice bird calls and catch glimpses of them flitting between trees or soaring above us. Lower to the ground, I spot butterflies sampling the nectar from flowers, and as I look closer, I notice a variety of bees (and start thinking I really should buy a good bee field guide). I cheer on the dragonflies and their cousins the damselflies as they clear the air of smaller insects—particularly mosquitoes.
Hunting friends often point to tracks I don’t notice until they show them to me. They recognize small smudges in mud and disturbances of downed leaves as clues to who has wandered by since we were last there.
On a walk with a botanist friend, she identified plants I had scarcely noticed and speculated on what had transpired to allow that plant to exist in its space. (A dying tree here provided nourishment; a slight depression there gathered more water than surrounding areas; a log skidder compressed the soil, preventing this and allowing that.)
One friend spots interesting rocks; another homes in on blueberry and raspberry plants with edible fruit. Even if I were looking for cool rocks or trying to fill my bucket with wild berries, they will find things I walked past.
Walking a city street, one of us notices everyone’s clothing. Another catches all the advertisements. A third notices building materials. A fourth characterizes strangers based on the way they walk, or tilt their heads, or make or avoid eye contact. One friend takes galumphing steps and never trips over roots or cracked sidewalks, while another stumbles over everything as they shuffle along, their feet never more than a micrometer or two above the ground (or so it seems).
We each see the world differently. Skilled authors use these differences to make their characters come alive. What do you notice that others don’t? What do you wish you would pay closer attention to?
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James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree series. Full of mystery and suspense, these thrillers explore financial crimes, family relationships, and what happens when they mix. Furthermore, a novella is the most recent addition to the series. You can sign up for his newsletter and find more information about Jim and his books at https://jamesmjackson.com.