Tag: writing

The Art of People Watching

People watchingAs a writer, people often tell me something and then immediately ask, “Are you going to put that in one of your books?”

The answer is always no. It doesn’t matter what antidote was relayed, what supposed fact was spouted, or what tidbit of unsubstantiated gossip was deposited. I’m not putting your story in my book. I may take note of how the person paused and chuckled before delivering the punch line of a joke, or how she glanced side to side and lowered her voice as she spread her gossip, or how the tip of his nose turned pink long before he came to the sad part of his story. That might end up in a book.

Gesture, tone, response—these are the things I look for, but not just in my interactions with people. [bctt tweet=”One of a writer’s best tools is the misunderstood art of people watching.”] I say misunderstood because often when I’m sitting alone, someone thinks I’m lonely and comes to talk to me. When I’m people watching, I’m working.

Here are some of my favorite places to people watch:


Songwriter John Mayer nailed this one in his song Wheel: “Airports see it all the time where someone’s last goodbye blends in with someone’s sigh cause someone’s coming home.” Airports are a parade of human experience. It’s in the pastor praying over departing missionaries, the businesswoman stomping toward her gate and the rhythm of her suitcase wheels rolling on the tile behind her, the soldier’s welcome home kiss with his wife, who holds their newborn.


Not quite as dramatic in emotional depth, but bubbling with frustration, chaos, and teen angst, a shopping mall is a like a catalogue of human features. The faces range from the overwhelmed mommy who brought the double stroller but neither of her toddlers will stay in it, to the Botoxed suburbanite dashing from Macy’s to Banana Republic, to the senior citizens in tapered-leg jeans and arch-supporting sneakers powerwalking around and around until their step counters beep two miles.


A tour of several different types of churches is necessary for the full scope of church people watching. Every church has its own culture and feel, but I’ve noticed some commonalities in the sanctuary pre-service. Watch the pastor’s wife, flustered as she wrangles her four children into the second pew from the front, suddenly straighten her posture and broadened her smile when the congregants start to arrive. Watch the early birds who sit in their routine seats, sigh with contentment, and absorb the peace. Watch the middle-aged man who slips into the room halfway through the service, perches on the edge of the back pew, and drops his face into his hands.

These are the things from real life that end up in my books, and not the circumstances, but the emotion conveyed through the slightest gesture. If you’re a writer, go people watching for inspiration. If you’re a reader, check out The Land Uncharted and see if you enjoy how my hobby of people watching enlivens my writing.

This post written by Keely Keith originally appeared on Krysten Lindsay’s Blog, December 2014.

30 Authors Give Advice to Writers

vintage typewriterI recently asked a few authors if they could give a new writer one sentence of advice, what would it be. From award winning authors, New York Times best sellers, and powerhouse indies, here are their replies:

“Develop perseverance, a thick skin, and a love of rewriting because it takes all three to last more than a year in a writing gig.” – Angela Hunt, Christy Award winning author with more than four million copies of her books sold worldwide

“Finish the book.” – Melissa Gorzelanczyk, author of Arrows, Randon House/Delacorte Press

“Measure your success as a writer in terms of things you can control—writing to the best of your ability, making your page count, finishing a project—not in terms of things you can’t.” – Lisa Wingate, Christy Award winning author of The Story Keeper

[bctt tweet=”“Measure your success as a writer in terms of things you can control.” – Lisa Wingate”]

“Invest time and money in books, magazines, classes, conferences, critique groups, and webinars on the craft of writing, and then hang out with interesting people.” – Kathy Nickerson, award winning author of Thirty Days to Glory

“To help you find your voice, visualize the one person you know who best represents your target audience and write as if you’re writing personally to him or her.” – Jennifer Case Cortez

“Starting a novel is like any new relationship; make your book feel special or it will get bored with you.” – Cynthia Port, author of Kibble Talk

“Find a critique partner or group who write in your genre so you will grow as a writer, learn the craft, and forge deep friendships with kindred spirits based on the work you critique and the critiques you’ll receive.” – Heidi McCahan, author of Unraveled

“If you know you’re supposed to be writing, prepare to push past multiple rejections, harsh critiques, and disheartening feedback to the reward at the end of the tunnel: finding your true readers, who will enjoy your books and tell others about them!” – Heather Day Gilbert, author of God’s Daughter

“Learn to thrive—in the struggle, in the joy, in the creative process—flourish in the messiness of it all.” – Christina Yother, author of the Hollow Hearts series

“Study and know your genre back and forth, and make sure your cover, blurb, and contents all align with what the reader expects from that genre.” – Victorine E. Lieske, New York Times and USA Today best selling author

“You are the only person in the entire world that can write what you do, so believe, keep going and shine.” – Megan Easley-Walsh

“Take advice and guidance from experienced editors and fellow authors, but never allow them to change the story you feel driven to write.” – Paul Cwalina, author of Dropping Stones

“Write even when you don’t feel like it.” – Lindsey M. Bell, author of Searching for Sanity

“Don’t write what’s trending and don’t write for the market, rather, dig deep and write the story God purposed only you to tell.” – Brenda S. Anderson, author of the Coming Home series

“Learn your craft and persevere.” – Debra L. Butterfield, author of Carried by Grace

“Take a day of rest from your writing–that means promoting it as well!” – Lauren H. Brandenburg, author of The Books of The Gardener Series

“Don’t make it hard for people to find you.” – Marianne Sciucco, author of Kindle bestseller Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s Love Story

“Read, read, read and write, write, write.” – RJ Thesman, author of the Reverend G series

“Write what inspires you and not what you think will inspire readers.” – T.I. Lowe, best selling author of Lulu’s Café

“Write from the secret places of your soul; only by risking your heart can you craft a powerful story that will touch readers.” Katy Huth Jones, author of Leandra’s Enchanted Flute

“Read your work aloud—it will show you your grammar errors, but more importantly it will teach you cadence and rhythm and help you find your voice.” – C.M. Keller, author of Screwing Up Time, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Quarterfinalist

“If you want to grow as a writer, never be satisfied with your original efforts: you must fearlessly self-edit and rewrite.” – Sarah Ashwood, author of The Sunset Lands Beyond series

“Write what you want to know, and teach your readers as you learn.” – Lars D. H. Hedbor, author of Tales From a Revolution Series

“Never give up because the only good writing is rewriting.” – Steve Stroble, author of Fool’s Gold

“Cultivate patience, and enjoy the journey.” – Margaret Lynette Sharp, author of Sisters and Rivals

“Write the story you feel in your heart, not the one others tell you to write.” – Shannon L. Brown, award winning author of The Feather Chase

“Join a critique group and never stop honing your craft!” – Regina Tittel, author of the Ozark Durham series

“Take the time to find your own voice and when you do, don’t be afraid to use it.” – Barbara Hartzler, author of The Nexis Secret

“Join a supportive group online or face to face, where you can collaborate with other writers.” – Melissa Miles, author of Burning Prospects

“Writing is a gift of expression and creativity; don’t be afraid to share the work, improve the stories, and learn life lessons along the way.” – Julie Gilbert, author of the Devya’s Children Book series

“When faced with a roadblock, press on with courage.” – Nancy Kay Grace, author of The Grace Impact



Post originally appeared on KeelyBrookeKeith.blogspot.com, August 2015.

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