I spent most of this week at my wife’s family’s family reunion. I was also working on starting the first draft of Jamie’s Sacrifice the third book in the Johnson Farm series (I know, I know… I’m working on the series title… (But the start of book three is going really well)). Between these two activities I’ve been doing a lot of observing people.
The thing is my people watching really comes from two very different yet weirdly similar traditions. By training I am a scientist. I have a masters in psychology (I was headed for a clinical doctorate in the time before time…). On the other hand, by nature I am a story teller, and by profession I am a writer/publisher. Both of these paths involve watching people, but there are real differences in how and why.
The differences are in objectives and goals.
In the realm of psychology and scientific observation you have goals like predicting behavior and knowing how to modify behavior. As a writer I am seeking to portray behavior and convey meaning through the portrayal of behavior.
The hard part is that it is easy to fall into one path when you really need to be in the other. And, while the two aren’t entirely mutually exclusive, it is really hard to create an engaging story if you are stuck in scientific observation. It is also hard to do an objective/impartial/scientific determination if you are allowing yourself to be carried by the drama and emotion of what’s happening.
Because the two traditions are different and have different objectives you get different results, depending on which one you are following. I have to feel that both are useful to me. The scientific observer is helpful for behind the scenes understanding of what’s going on in your story; but the story teller’s observation is the one that will help you create a story people want to read.
It takes practice
Ultimately I do think learning both techniques is useful, but you have to know which mode you’re in and how to use it.
The good news is that you can learn both. The bad news is that you have to figure out how to do it for yourself. No two writers have the same background or experiences (maybe twins (maybe…)), so each of us has to find our own way to do it. And if we are continuing to learn and grow (I.e. we are living beings…) we will probably have to continue figuring it out all our lives.
That’s it for this one dear reader. See you next post.