Rich Ritter - The New Voice of the American West

How to Write the Great American Novel: Step 2

Now that you've had a few days to explore the first step (posted previously), you are ready to consider the second. This step is absolutely critical to your success as a writer. And before you decide that it is obvious and nothing to worry about, just remember the countless times you were oblivious to your surroundings.

Study the behaviors of living things. When attending a meeting, observe each person’s facial expressions, the blush of their cheeks, the gleam of their eyes, the tone of their voice, the curl of their lips. When strolling down a busy street, pay attention to the manner of each person’s gait, the swing of the arms, the movement of an impatient man through a crowd, the sounds of laughing children, the shape of a cat curled up on the entry mat of a townhouse, the feel of someone bumping against you. When sitting at a park bench on a sunny day, peruse the young couple holding hands, the old man shuffling along with the aid of a cane, the flash of a runner speeding by, the acrobatics of a squawking crow alighting on a branch, the homeless person snoring under a tree, the dog taking a crap. The possibilities for useful observation are boundless.

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