O … is for Observation

O[1] is for observation. If you think back to ‘I’, I wrote about imagery, and there is a strong connection to observation.

What is observation?

We see real scenes in life every day, but seeing those scenes isn’t detailed observation. It is casual observation; a glance, for example.

I believe that true, detailed, observation as a writer is deeper. It is this detail that we must employ in our writing; in our imagery. Now I suppose you’d like an example … well, okay then.

Let’s take a strategic military operation; the observation post, or OP as it’s called, manned by two soldiers.

Why is it called an Observation Post?

It evolves from the fact that the people involved are not just ‘watching casually’, or if you like ‘seeing’ the scene ahead of them. They are observing the scene. To truly observe something – not just ‘see’ it, we must stare, concentrate, and examine it. Let’s continue with the men in the OP.

Example 1. The two men could send a message that they saw; a few tanks and a couple of helicopters, with a whole load of troops standing in nearby woodland. It’s a vague report, but it’s what they saw.

Example 2. The same two men could watch closely, or observe, and then report; six main battle tanks, one light reconnaissance tank , two personnel-carrying helicopters and four attack helicopters, plus a full infantry battalion, battle-ready, in the woods.

Where does this come into writing, and imagery?

Let’s apply a similar strategy to a brief scene. You’re having a coffee and watching the world go by, making notes in your notebook, thinking of your latest story. Right before you, a scene opens up and you want to record it for later. One of the following is written by somebody who simply looks at things, but the other is written by somebody who ‘observes’ closely.

Example 1. Two men crossed the road to the car and jumped in. The vehicle drove off immediately.

Example 2. It was noon, when the two men ran to the red pick-up. Smoke was drifting from the exhaust. When the ski-masks were removed, I noticed one man was dark-haired and bearded, while the other was bald. The vehicle raced out of town towards the east.

Okay, it’s not too exciting, but imagine if it was in a story. Which of those two styles would create interest for you as a reader?

If any one of you suggests Example 1 in either of those two cases above – go back to ‘A’ and start reading again. LOL

Thank you once again for putting up with my way of looking at things. I’ll see you on my blog patrol again later, and then I’ll be going for a ‘P’ … for my next post of course.






9 thoughts on “O … is for Observation

    1. I know I’ve gone a bit over the top with my second examples, but I’m with you … there are times we need the short, sharp sentence to maintain the pace.


  1. I’ve always enjoyed getting the full picture, but today it does seem as though moving the scene along is the rule. A reader of my first book took me to task on the descriptive prose – just get to the action, she said. It’s a fine line, but I prefer the second version, it keeps the reader in the scene!


    1. Hi Liz, and thank you for dropping by. Many thanks too for your insightful comment. I didn’t start writing poetry until I was in my 50’s, but inside a couple of years I wrote hundreds. On the odd occasion that I still write verse these days, I’m still a stickler for rhyming, but the imagery must bring the words to life. I was honoured last year by a university student asking to use my poem, ‘River Clyde’ as the soundtrack for a media project.


  2. You’ve got me questioning my ability as a writer.. I’m not good on descriptive.. The reader adds all that in for themselves. I show feelings well apparently which, I think, some descriptive writers may not. and yes in short doses I prefer b but not all the way through a book if I’m going to read it in under 2 days as I prefer to do.


    1. Please don’t doubt yourself Lynne. I like to think I’m good on imagery, and reasonable with emotion, senses and dialogue, but we can only depend on our readers to tell us for sure. I know what you mean regarding the longer, more ‘flowery’ prose. In the last couple of years I’ve read a couple of the classics and felt as if I was walking through treacle. It’s a labour of love reading them, because I find I learn a little something each time. I must admit, I do like pace in anything I read.


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