How To Think Like A Writer Every Day

17 Ways To Think Like A Writer Every Day


Writers Write is your one-stop writing resource. In this post, we share a number of ways to help you think like a writer every day.

We learn how to plot, write dialogue, create characters, and pace a book, but we would become even better writers if we knew how to think like a writer in our everyday lives.

How can we do this? Firstly, we need to stop looking at our phones. Once we wean ourselves from this obsession, there are many ways to think like a writer.

17 Ways To Think Like A Writer Every Day

  1. Open Your Eyes – Material for your stories is everywhere. One of the most important things about really seeing is learning to describe what is actually there, instead of what you think is there. Look at colours and shadows and shades. Notice time passing. Look at seasons.
  1. Use Your Other Senses Too – Listen, Taste, Touch, Smell. Imagine you are filming a scene and walk through it using all of these senses.
  1. Watch People 
    1. Look at their physical features.
    2. Observe their body language.
    3. Take note of habits, tics, and movements.
    4. Look at how they hold and touch things and people.
    5. Look at the things they have around them.
    6. Look at the clothes and jewellery they wear.
  1. Listen To People – This will help you when you settle down to writing dialogue.
    1. How do they speak?
    2. Do they have an accent?
    3. Do their words match their actions?
    4. What are they really trying to say – or not say?
    5. Take note of their speech patterns and choice of words.
    6. Do they listen to other people?
  1. What Makes People Uncomfortable? Think about the 10 worst things that can happen to the people you meet and imagine how they would cope. We don’t want to read boring stories. People read books to find out how people cope with interesting, dangerous, challenging situations. This will help you write conflict for characters.
  1. Ask Questions – Find out where people come from, where they live, and what their history is. Ask them about their names – what do they mean? [Suggested resource The Art of Baby Nameology by Norma J Watts]
  1. Think About Patterns, Symbols, Signs – Notice patterns – in things – and of behaviour. Be aware of a recurring image or sign in a setting. Don’t dismiss these. Think about how you could use them to add textures and layers to stories.
  1. Interrogate People’s Actions – Why do people behave the way they do? What are their real intentions? Don’t take anybody at face value. If you start looking at people like this it will be easier for you to do it when you create characters, especially antagonists.
  1. What Are People’s Driving Passions? – Besides loving people, everybody loves something. It could be big, like the relentless uncovering of injustices, or simple like an obsession with Star Wars or visiting bookshops. Find out what it is and think about how it shapes their lives.
  1. What Are People’s Biggest Fears? We all fear losing somebody or something happening to people we love. Look beyond that when you interact with others. Do they fear losing status, a job, a possession? Are they worried about money, climate change, dictators?
  1. Imagine Scenes Through Different Viewpoints – As you go about your day, look at a scene. Then look around you and imagine how other people see what you’re seeing. Their age, class, employment, and status should allow you to see very different things.
  1. Turn An Incident Into An Inciting Moment – If you notice anything unusual or interesting happening, use your imagination and think about how it could be used as an inciting moment for a story.
  1. Ask What If? This is a useful, fun exercise you can do anywhere. Look around you and ask what people would do if… Think of any number of interesting scenarios and apply them to different people and situations.
  1. Turn A Situation Into A SceneScenes are short units in stories. They are driven by a viewpoint character who has a goal. He or she meets resistance and either achieves or fails to achieve that goal. If you see an interesting interaction, fictionalise it using the mechanics of scene.
  1. Narrate A Scene In Your Head – Tell a story in your head. Imagine it as if you were writing it down. Try using first person, second person, and third person viewpoints. Try telling the story as a narrator.
  1. Find Potential Titles Everywhere – If you hear an interesting expression or see an unusual name for a road, write it down. You may be able to use for the title of a book, or a setting.
  1. Look For Heroes – Remember that everybody you meet is the hero of his or her own story. What are their stories? What are their goals?

Top Tip: If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

 by Amanda Patterson

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