What do People See?

Writers need to be good observers of the world, because they need to be able to draw pictures in your head relating to settings and characters. Continuing with the theme of senses, today I am musing on observation by sight.

What do people see when they look at you?


The likelihood is that they just notice isolated things, such as the colour of your cardigan or if you have a limp. They will gain an overall impression of your state of mind, health and whether you are rich or poor. But, of course, appearances can be very deceptive and initial thoughts are not always accurate.

Observers can’t see your life experiences, the things that you’ve done, or even things that have been said to you that make you who you are. They don’t see your loves, losses, heartaches and trials. They don’t see the places you’ve been or your achievements. They don’t see your current worries and dreams.

Of course, we can also fool people by consciously deciding to have a certain way of dressing or being, which adds a further layer of potential perceptions and misconceptions.

Life, I’ve found, is a series of phases and the impact you make on someone else will depend on the phase you are in at the time that you meet them.

It is of course the same with the characters in a book. The reader will see the character as they are described in the novel and the writer will have to paint a picture of how they arrived where they are in the story.

Writers often know far more about their characters than ever appears on the page. They will have thought about all of the above and much more, sometimes even right down to their favourite toy as a child or the wallpaper in their childhood home.

The characters in my debut novel for Choc Lit ‘Who is Harry Dixon?’ to be published later this year, are most definitely formed by their past experiences and their consequences.

What do people see and not see when they look at you?

If you are a writer, what do you need to know about the background of your characters?

By Morton S. Gray

Author of romantic suspense novels. http://mortonsgray.com


  1. Great blog, and the importance of knowing your characters’ back stories. I tend to do a lot of work on those back stories in the earliest stages of a book, but I only begin to discover how those back stories have affected my characters as I get into the story. I’ve tried ‘interviewing’ my characters, but unsuccessfully. It just feels false to me. I have to write the story to find out, so during the first third of the story, I’m finding out more and more, and sometimes that entails going back and putting in or strengthening some aspect of character that has only become apparent as I write.

    As to what people see and don’t see when they look at me – I certainly hope they don’t see all the chocolate I’ve scoffed in the past few weeks, but I suspect they will see it, in my straining waistbands! And, as I prepare for forthcoming library talks and a panel discussion, I certainly hope the audiences won’t see how petrified I am!


    1. Hi Jan,

      I was actually thinking of you and the work you do on character background as I wrote the blog.

      You will be fine at talks and panel, I’ve seen you in action 😉. As for the straining waistband, I would lay money that half your audience will be feeling the same. Good luck with it all.


      Liked by 1 person

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