Friday, September 12, 2008

Powers of Observation

Every time I hear the phrase--a writer's eye for details--I cringe. I'm the person who can drive past a weathered four-story building on my daily trip to the gym and say, how long has THAT been there? I'm always losing my car in parking lots. I can re-watch movies I saw years ago, because I don't remember how they ended. Last week, I spent hours perusing masterpieces in a museum I've been to before.

My husband, on the other hand, whose interest in writing tends toward writing code for computer programs, recollects in minute detail every stage on which he's performed in the last 10 years, knows where he left a specific cable in a garage full of wires, and can play "name that cityscape."

I'm not alone. My good friend and fellow author, Lauren Royal, suffers from the same affliction. When we attend conferences or writer's retreats together, it's like the blind leading the blind as we lose ourselves in the hotel hallways or on the cruise ship. Lauren can't remember what waitresses look like. I don't recall if I've heard the speaker before. Neither of us know which way's north.

So how do we detail-challenged authors manage to write?

I think romance writers may not necessarily have an eye for PHYSICAL details, but we have great powers of EMOTIONAL observation. I may not be able to picture the restaurant I went to for my 30th birthday, but I remember distinctly the warmth of being surrounded by friends and family. I don't know which football game it was, but I remember the way I choked up when my kids played "The Star-Spangled Banner." I can't recall my sixth-grade classmates, but I remember the horrible humiliation of being picked last for the softball team. I have trouble envisioning the face of my first high school crush, but I'll never forget the dizzying passion of falling in love. I don't remember the details of giving birth--what was in the room, the color of the curtains, what I talked about for 18 hours--but I clearly recall the utter joy of holding my new baby in my arms.

Emotion, after all, is what's most important in a romance. The details I can invent. (But believe me, I'd never invent a manor for the hero that had the convoluted blueprint of some of the hotels I've been in!)

So how are your powers of observation? Does anyone share my curse? Give me the...details.

Oh, one more thing...If you get a moment, please go here to vote for my Danger's Kiss book trailer (voting is the dark box in the upper left):

Sarah McKerrigan...
Stories to keep you up all night!
LADY DANGER - Riding to the rescue April 2006
CAPTIVE HEART - Coming for you October 2006
KNIGHT'S PRIZE - Stealing your heart April 2007
DANGER'S KISS - Flirting with trouble May 2008


Carolyn said...

I am directionally impaired. It's really sad and pathetic. I have trouble with left and right let alone when some smart alec starts talking about north and south. Oh, please.

As far as I am concerned, the GPS is the greatest invention EVER.

Sarah McKerrigan said...

The nice thing about being directionally impaired is that if the sun ever rose in the west one day, everyone else would be running around in a panic, and I'd be fine with it!

Shari Anton said...

If I'm going across town to someplace I've never been before, I always allow for fifteen minutes of "lost" time. I usually need it, too. The dh has a GPS, and he loves it. I should probably get one, but then I'd have to learn how to use it. Yes, I'm electronically impaired, too! Thank goodness for paper maps and cell phones.