In WPM (Writer's Portable Mentor) there is a chapter that is dedicated to learning to see, which will greatly help your writing. As a fine artist, this is one of the major lessons I've learned, to see shapes instead of things. Everything is made of light and shadow. It took me awhile before I finally got it. I've taught art lessons and realized how difficult it was to try to teach someone to see shapes instead of things.

Writing has a similar lesson if you want to improve your skills. You can train yourself to observe your environment by really looking at the room you are in - take inventory and name every item. Go to a park, the library, a public place and write what you are observing. Pick an object and write about it, describing as much detail as you can. Be specific in description: instead of a small house, call it a cottage or a bungalow. Do the same for observing people. Describe body shape, dress, how they speak and gesture. This can tell you a lot about the kind of person they are.

What these exercises will do is help you find characters, places, and objects for your stories. The teen-aged boy who mows your lawn has a diamond stud in his pierced ear, wears his dirty-blonde hair in a pony tail and his wrangler jeans below his hips. His yellow Keds are always untied. Sounds like a typical teenager? But now your reader can picture him and make some assumptions about the kind of person he is.

Isn't it fun painting a picture?

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