I was talking to someone the other day about the death of an author (Anne McCaffrey). We both loved her, and we were talking about what we loved—and beyond the obvious, dragons, fire lizards and the wonderful worlds she created—what we loved most was the little things. The small details of daily life, the things that made the world real were what we loved most.
I have been accused of taking research too far once or twice—ending up in the ER then writing about it—but it’s not just the big event I use, it’s all the little things that happen while I am there. Things that might not even happen in a hospital setting in my writing but something I remembered from that experience—the way someone spoke, a man’s walk, the silence, or the noise, the music in the background or the pervading smell. Everything is a potential moment in a story.
Every day I watch, I listen, I smell and taste. All of that is translated into writing at some point. While I never duplicate a person in their entirety, I might take a piece of them and use it in a character. The way they brush the hair out of their face, or something they say. Flash, a character in my Custodes Noctis series, is the only character who regularly swears, and yet it is part of his definition as a character and he doesn’t even notice it is so much a part of him. Based on someone? Yes, a little.
I also notice the world at large, the scents of the seasons, the bitter tang of autumn or that only snow produces. Or it can be the heavy scent of a warm damp climate summer, dripping with the weight of the perfume of flowers, or the dry medicinal scent of the southwest on a hot day. Roasting coffee smells a little like skunk, the southwest in autumn smells like roasting chilies. Each little thing makes the world more alive for me and that reality I can pass on to my readers.
Using the things I love and experience are what I think make writing a richer experience for me as the writer and hopefully for the reader as well. Little things make a story live for me, and it is the little things I want to share. Yes, something huge is happening, but everyday life goes on as well.