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Writing fiction, I’ve discovered, has side-effects. Not bad ones, like some medications, but they are unexpected.

Like being more observant.

Not only do I notice objects in more detail, I notice things I would never have noticed before. Like spiders’ webs: the way they are constructed - not always perfect, but perfectly designed for purpose. The way the raindrops hang in minute rows along the delicate strands, the way the light refracts from them, with a mirror-like effect if you look close enough. The way that frost sometimes stands up in frills on the top of fences or wires, like a mini-barrier discouraging invaders; the way that leaves shrivel and change colour with the ground frost, blending into the ground around them.

I notice people’s mannerisms. The flick of the hair, the folding of the arms across the stomach. Where their eyes land when they’re talking. How some people hold back until there is a pause before saying something pithy, surprising everyone. How some people, usually men, hitch their trousers up when they’re nervous. I notice people’s voices, their clothes, the way they walk. How families interact, or not.

Smells and sounds are different, too. Often, I try to find the words for a particular aroma; it can be difficult, if not impossible. I do the same for sounds, for the tone of people’s voices, for the click of my dogs’ toenails on the bamboo floors in my house. I look for multiple words to describe the same thing. This, I imagine, stretches my descriptive muscle, brings language long-forgotten back into my vocabulary. I try to be my own Thesaurus.

Writing fiction is a joy. Who knew it had wonderful side-effects, like this one. I’ll blog about others, as they come to mind.

P.S. Note my description of the stunning beach on the Kuronian Spit in Lithuania in my new psychological thriller, The Truth Waits, out now.

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