I love a mystery! Whether it's a book, movie, play or TV series, I love the challenge of trying to figure out who, why and how someone did the dastardly deed. The clues are there if you're sharp enough. The grandaddy of observation is, of course, Sherlock Holmes. The sleuth is all over the place at the moment. PBS has an interesting documentary about the "real" Sherlock and how he has influenced crime scene investigation.
One of the most amazing things about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories is how they are so timeless. Each generation re-invents the famous detective while still holding true to the basic story. Sherlock is often maddening. but never dull. How I wish I could write a book that shines and intrigues readers for decades. However, figuring out motivations, characteristics and what is really going on in a scene is something we can all use to improve our writing skills.
While I am no expert on Sir Conan Doyle or the mythology of Sherlock Holmes, I can appreciate the influence he has had on mystery writers and avid readers. His take on deductive reasoning and observation still confound me.
For fun, I've gone to websites devoted to developing the art of observation. It's a skill you can develop with practice. Have you ever watched an Alfred Hitchcock movie and tried to spot his cameo appearance in his movies? Have you ever encountered an elderly lady defiantly wearing a bikini to the beach? How about someone with unusual eating habits? Can you tell where a person if from by their speech? These are just a few of the quirks that bring your characters to life.
Observing people and things around us can spark the imagination. When you are out at the mall or in a restaurant, look around and create a story about people around you. Observe their mannerisms, clothing or habits. Can you use them in your story? Make your characters unique. Quirks and all.