See Here, Now

Writing is seeing. I came across this tidbit somewhere and, being me, promptly forgot where. But it stayed with me: Writing is seeing. It's seeing, y'all!

But seeing isn't easy...

We all know writers are observers. But it's not just a matter of opening your eyes. It's a matter of seeing past things, getting at hidden machinations, understanding the context of what's unfolding before your eyes. Say you're trying to capture a scene that recalls a childhood summer. Sure, you have to see it in your mind's eye. (Duh.)

But the trick is to understand WHAT elements to focus on (sandy sandwiches? Your mom's big old laugh rippling across the beach?). Also, HOW they're evocative (The texture of the sandwich's sun-softened, tepid, kinda nasty cheese? The chink of ice settling in your mom's Tab soda glass?)

And, finally, WHY that specific element captures enough of a truth to resonate with the reader (sandy sandwiches representing the freedom from school lunchtime? The near desperate way mothers would finally relax--now that the fathers were all safely back in the city and, yanno, unaware that it probably wasn't Tab soda in her glass?).

 Clearly, Deviantart's blindedangel knew how to see. Look at how evocative this is.

Get it? It's all in what you see -- and then what you spot behind what you see. Of course, the second half is the ability to get it down right, and that takes, yanno, writing chops. But seeing is the critical part, I think, because
...Seeing is believing.

And verisimilitude is what makes a story come alive. See?


Carolyn V. | June 8, 2010 at 8:38 PM

You're right. It's seeing what is happening on the page. Findnig and capturing the elements. Excellent Zoe! =)

Aubrie | June 8, 2010 at 8:45 PM

When I'm in the zone, I definitely see what's going on like a movie in my head. Sometimes it doesn't compare to the words that go on the page and I have to go back and look closer for more details. Great post!

Anonymous | June 8, 2010 at 8:50 PM

Yup, I've been working on visualizing many aspects of the scene and translating that into description. Working in all the senses is pretty cool too. Great post!

Alex J. Cavanaugh | June 8, 2010 at 9:05 PM

Good words for thought!

Mary McDonald | June 8, 2010 at 9:11 PM

Like most writers, I see what I'm writing and try to capture the image with words, as well as the feelings of the characters.

I know a few people who don't read much, and I've said something to them like, 'but reading is so fun, like my own movie in my head.' They shake their heads and say they don't 'see' the book in their mind. Sad. :-(

Makes me wonder if they don't see the story because they don't practice reading, and maybe it's an acquired skill, or that they never got into reading because the didn't see the story. Like the chicken and the egg.

Lydia Kang | June 8, 2010 at 9:53 PM

Ah, easier said than done! I guess that's why I'm still revising...

Bethany Elizabeth | June 9, 2010 at 5:37 AM

Thanks for posting this! I write fantasy most of the time, and so I often dismiss trying to make the world very relatable, but the fact is, it's the same world. Some differences, sure, but people still need to be able to see. :)
And I loved that picture - great example. (sometimes using one sort of art is great to demonstrate for another, right?) Definitely reminds me of some of my weekends on the Oregon Coast.

Matthew Rush | June 9, 2010 at 8:27 AM

Great point Zoe. I think that is really what makes great writers ... people who see things differently.

Of course like you said, perfecting the craft of putting it all down properly is important too, but the SEEING is the starting point.

Piedmont Writer | June 9, 2010 at 8:32 AM

Great post Zoe, it's not what's right there in front of you but what's in the background.

Sangu | June 9, 2010 at 10:13 AM

Great post! I love how you narrow the focus down to textures and beautiful images. It really is all about seeing, but seeing in a certain way! :)

Laura Marcella | June 9, 2010 at 11:58 AM

Absolutely true, writing is seeing and seeing is believing. If you don't get the elements right that make up those vital scenes, then the reader won't be invested in the story. And that's never good!

Awesome post!

Tere Kirkland | June 9, 2010 at 12:09 PM

Great post! Most of my fave scenes are the ones that feel so visceral, sensory. I try to replicate this sensation in my own work.

Lisa K. | June 9, 2010 at 1:18 PM

Excellent post, Zoe. It's something I've been thinking a lot about this last week or so with my new WIP, so this is a very timely post for me. Thanks for some wonderful advice.

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) | June 9, 2010 at 2:49 PM

Great post. I see what I'm writing in my head so clearly sometimes it's like I'm there. If I can't see it, I've realised the scene isn't working and go back to it. :)

Roland D. Yeomans | June 10, 2010 at 3:44 AM

Great post. Great minds run in similar cycles. I wrote tonight of the writing skill of Winston Churchill depended in part on his soldier's eye for detail and pinpointing the basics of the scene in sparse prose.

Have a beautiful weekend, Roland

Zoe C. Courtman | June 10, 2010 at 9:04 AM

Thanks everyone for your comments! I was a little worried in writing this post - thinking twas maybe too much of a DUH! But it looks like everyone got what I meant :D THanks so much for commenting!!!

Simon C. Larter | June 10, 2010 at 2:53 PM

Oh, great post, good lady! Of course, I'd add that it's not just seeing you're talking about. You're talking about touch and hearing and taste and scent, too, yes? Like the clink of ice, the softened cheese, and all that? It's not just opening your eyes, it's opening all the other senses too. You can "see" with your ears and skin and tongue and nose as well, I think.

Zoe C. Courtman | June 10, 2010 at 3:16 PM

Hey, Simon! Thanks for popping in. I was definitely including the other senses :D To me, seeing as a writer is looking *beyond* what's present visually and *seeing* what's important about an event, place or scene. Thanks for the dialog!!

Vicki Rocho | June 11, 2010 at 8:06 AM

I think you just wanted to use verisimilitude in a post. ;)

Good post!

Zoe C. Courtman | June 11, 2010 at 9:21 AM

LOL, hey Vicki!! That *is* a fun word to type :) Thanks for popping in!

Elana Johnson | June 11, 2010 at 2:32 PM

"Seeing" is easy. It's really getting behind everything you see that's hard. This is a deep post -- and so so true.

Zoe C. Courtman | June 11, 2010 at 2:53 PM

Yay! It's Elana! LOL. Thanks for visiting - and thanks, yanno, for GETTING it! :d

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