Monday, June 7, 2010

Nosy Neighbor Syndrome: It's Okay—Writers Do That

I'm reading 101 Things You Didn't Know about Jane Austen at the moment. I mainly stick to fiction for children in reading, since that's what I write. But it isn't so surprising that I'd pick up a non-fiction book about Jane if you take into account that writers like to read about other writers and that I do enjoy an occasional biography. However, as I began the third section, I suddenly felt a little like a nosy neighbor peering through the window curtains trying to make out what was happening in someone else's house. What kind of fascination is it that we have for Jane Austen's life? She's been dead for a long time. Why are we so curious about her?

I cannot explain it, other than to say that as a writer, you've got to be nosy. Writers must be nosy about the people around them. Where else would we get material? Jane Austen was very social. I get the impression that she was, well, nosy. No doubt in a more or less impeccably polite and unobtrusive way, yet still, her eyes must have been always watching and her ears always listening. I believe she had such insight into characters because she studied people.

Knowing 101 obscure facts about Jane Austen might not make me a great writer, but studying people will help. What makes them tick? What causes them to make the decisions? What are they passionate about? Why? How do they react in different situations?

Here's your challenge today. Study a few people. Go to the park or the mall and sit on a bench and watch people. Use a newspaper or book to make it look like you're actually reading instead of spying. (Make sure it's right side up so you don't blow your cover.) Pick one of your subjects and write a journal entry from that person's point of view. Don't edit. Let the character tell you things about himself or herself that you didn't know. Keep these. You might end up using this character research at some point.

And here's to Jane Austen. Jane, you knew your stuff.


  1. book it. *thumb up*
    Thanks for the tip...looking forward to jouranling about it.

  2. I have to confess that I thought of you right away when I saw the book. It's just the kind of thing you'd like, Christine.

    Not that you're nosy or anything.

    : )