Observing and imagining

I read a lot of books; not many of them are classics old or modern, mostly are what people might rudely call ‘pot-boilers’ but in fact are often well-written, beautifully written even. However, I agree, some are not; some have a good plot, interesting characters, vivid settings, writing which keeps you on the edge of your metaphorical seat (I read in bed) and the sort of writing which makes you re-read bits just because they are so well-written – but some are less accomplished.

I read a lot of crime novels, police procedurals; with some writers, these who write a series, you can see how they improve as the series progress… With others you just give up getting any more of their books because you know that despite an interesting plot, the characters are unbelievable or stereotypical of that type of character. Every time there is an eccentric pathologist or forensic scientist with quirky habits I mentally groan; every time there is a superior officer who is unsupportive or described as ‘a dinosaur’ or antediluvian’, or the subordinate who is ‘a maverick’,  I sigh. I feel that these characters have been imagined from other novels and have not been based on observation or knowledge… it’s as if the writer wants to make memorable characters, but bases them on other writers memorable characters.

Little things which must have been observed in real life are often the key to describing someone – P.D.James once had a scene where a character had received some unexpected news. He received it calmly and seemed unperturbed, but then he took a cigarette, put it in his mouth,and lit the wrong end – this tiny event in a small episode, was, in a way, key to the rest of the novel.

Research and doing the background work to a story line is really important, but it’s trying to be true to the characters you have which seem to me to be the key to a book which other people enjoy. I look back at some of the things I wrote when I was much younger; I have always had a very vivid imagination, and had imagined all sorts of characters in all sorts of situations – but they were completely unrealistic because I had based the detail of who they were on other things I had read or seen in films, not on what I had observed about real people in real relationships (not just personal relationships, but work colleagues, employers/employees, etc.) I know I have a thing about names, but using stereotypical names, ‘Sharon and Tracy’ spring to mind , is just another aspect of the same complaint I have…

Well, that’s that off my chest… back to writing, and I must bear in mind all I have said here… no stereotypes, observe as well as imagine… don’t upset the fussy reader…

Here is a link to my ebooks and paperbacks:https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_4_6?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=lois+e%2Caps%2C138&crid=20REK0LH7O9KQ



  1. David Lewis

    How can you write about loneliness when you’ve never really been lonely? How do you sing the blues when your life has been a bed of roses? Some things have to be experienced first hand or they don’t come across as believable.


  2. David Lewis

    When I was desperately lonely in college, far from home, I had an out of body experience where my spirit left my body but I could look down at myself and yet feel the pain and had to escape it somehow. Only happened once but will never forget.


    1. Lois

      You really should write your stories down… they are so unusual and interesting. I’ve never had an out of body experience, but I have had some unhappy times… thankfully all in the past!


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