Out of your Element: An Owl among Crows

We’ve all been somewhere we really didn’t want to go to. It may be an event where you knew few people and you really didn’t want to be there. Or, it may be as simple as waiting in line someplace. As a writer, there are several things you can do in those settings. One writer described these situations as being an owl among crows.

One of the things I like to do is to pick out individuals and think about how I would describe that person in a story. Descriptions of characters are essential to having a good story. Practice in describing people exercises our brains and helps us to come up with new ways to describe them. It’s helpful to pick out the characteristic you can use in your description much like a cartoon artist might in a drawing.

Another thing that I like to do is to listen to part of a conversation and use that as a prompt. I take that conversation fragment and make it into a story. It doesn’t have to be long and elaborate just as long as you create something interesting and entertaining yourself. I seldom use those short, short stories I make up in real writing. Again, you’re exercising your creative muscle.

Another thing that I do is to find what I think are interesting characters and engage them in conversation. Recently, I was at a social event where I met a gentleman who had political views the opposite of mine and engaged him in conversation. I didn’t want to talk about where we disagreed on political points. What I was interested in was how he would explain his political views to someone he wanted to convince. By doing that I was getting some insight into his thinking. Hopefully, when I have a character who thinks and acts like he does I’ll be able to draw the information.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, sometimes I do this when I’m on vacation. I will leave all my writing materials at home and simply watch people with the purpose in mind of describing them and their habits. At the same time, I will capture ideas for stories from things that I hear or things that are around me. In a weeks time I can come up with more story ideas that I can write about a year.