Writing Fiction – Life, Language and Observation

Observation in writingby Annette Young


I sometimes cannot believe how fast the time goes by. It seems only minutes since I blinked and was ready to welcome the weekend in and now, it’s come and gone again. It was a productive weekend in terms of writing and planning however but I’ve always said that the whole creative process is much more than actually sitting down and committing words to paper. Sometimes, it’s the silliest of things that can spark off the imagination and make you think about life in a whole new light.


Relaxing with a glass of wine at the weekend, I stared out over the surrounding villas with the sun sparkling over the roof tops and the sound of water splashing as children played in a nearby pool. Even though, there was noise, the scene was still tranquil…for a short term before car horns trumpted through the early evening breeze and then a creshendo of voices broke the scene and dissipated. My thoughts turned toward the people who had begun to laugh in their gardens, voices sounding ever nearer as they turned their volume up and was reminded, irrespective of the tranquil scene, just how noisy the Spanish folk around me are. 


While I certainly do not mean this to be disrespectful, there is a noted difference between the cultures here and I am surrounded by many – Russian, French, German, Danish, Dutch and Spanish of course. I am endlessly fascinated by the variety of accents and the different tones and…volume. 


One moment, I was feeling more than a little relaxed, content to watch life go by and the next minute, I was out of my chair, convinced someone was being murdered as the sound of rapid and somewhat volatile words shattered the tranquility around me.  Half-expecting to see a dramatic scene unfold, instead, I watched as a Spanish couple barked loud comments at each other while walking past my gate and then, as if choreographed, and with perfect timing, fell into each other’s arms. 


You may wonder what this has to do with writing but, think about this, when we write fiction, our aim is to conjure up characters that feel real and that are strong enough to connect with the reader. So we have to think about the uniqueness of people, the differences between men and women and of course, the differences of culture too. Sometimes we live parallel lives with others, we may share similar thoughts and feelings, go to work each day, enjoy a drink in the evening to wind down after a day filled with pressure and we may laugh and smile at the same things. Yet under the surface, sometimes that’s where our parallel lives end. 


Language is a wonderful thing but, without understanding the words or the pronunciation, we are left with our imagination, with speculation and to try to read the signals from body language. That’s something to consider when you create your next character. Are they easy to read and understand or complex, hot-blooded and feisty? Where does your story take place and can you blend a variety of cultures portraying them in a convincing and yet sensitive way?


There’s so much you can do with your characters, you just have to absorb life as it happens around you and each impression can greatly fuel your ability to create 3 dimensional characters. Or…………………….you can simply join us on The Fiction Masterclass….and let us bring the technique of characterisation to life for you.

Where Do You Like To Write?

where do you like to write

by Annette Young

When I was searching for photos for the website, I came across this one and it immediately made me think about places where writers gain inspiration. Now, I have never gone as far as sitting in a tree to type but I do tend to have my laptop glued to me and it is literally a case of ‘have laptop, will travel’.

I love sitting in cafes and absorbing life around me. Somehow the constant noise and hustle and bustle is both soothing and inspirational. Even the clatter of spoons and the whirring sound of the coffee machines are not a distraction.

I think this is because writing is a lonely occupation. It is only when you work as a writer on a full-time level that you can see just how isolating it is. Most of your work – whether fiction or non-fiction comes from deep within and so, breaking away from the home environment is a great way to recharge those all-important creative juices and just indulge in a little slice of life.

I regularly travel so it’s not unusual to see me with my laptop out and working while on the train. I have traveled extensively through France and the UK and inevitably have my laptop  or notebook with me so I can quickly type up an article or blog post. People watching while on the train is always interesting. Everyone is lost in their own little world of captive boredom. For a writer it can be inspirational and easy to make up stories about the passengers. Who are they? Where are they going and why?

It’s also fun to make note of mannerisms, character traits and even accents and a tone of voice does not fail to come under scrutiny. Importantly, being away from the desk and in the middle of a group of people allows you to think about things that you would not normally perhaps. I have also written on buses and coaches although you really do need a small laptop and an ability to bend your body into a scrunched position to succeed.

I have even taken my small laptop with me on walks in the countryside and picnics so that I can still fit in some writing. Perhaps capture the beauty of flowers nearby, or to describe the sound of flowing water over rocks. I remember even sitting on a clifftop once, looking out over the jagged edges to the sea, where the sky and ocean met in a band of blended blue and dolphins jumped elegantly from the rising waves. What better way to capture life on paper than to view it and then relay it instinctively?

So this all made me think about where you like to go and write. Do you have a favourite spot where you can indulge your writing passion? Why not share it?

Scroll down to the comments box way down at the bottom of the page and tell us about your special spots and why. They don’t have to be weird or wacky but let’s break the isolation of writing  a little by sharing with others who are also passionate about the written word.



“Image courtesy of [just2shutter] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.