What separates an average writer from a good writer? What separates a good writer from a great writer? While the nature of writing is so complex that there cannot be just one answer to these questions, there is one quality that plays a significant role in a writer’s overall ability.
Great writers are often lauded for their keen observation. What these writers are able to do, what makes their work so great, is present material on a subject that allows the reader to see things in their mind as clearly as if they were seeing it with their own eyes. In fact, a great writer will present a subject so well that a reader may be shown certain details that he or she had never noticed before.
But how can a writer develop such talent? One tried and true method is through the writing of observation essays. The following is a grouping of hints and tips to help budding writers put together excellent observation essays.
- CHOOSING A TOPIC
Considering the observation essay requires actual observation of a subject, it is a good idea to choose a topic that you can actually see, including people, places, and things. This can include your grandmother, a rock concert, or a banana tree. The possibilities are literally endless.
- WRITE IN THE PRESENT TENSE
Virtually all observation essays are written in the present tense. That is to say, the writer will be providing description of what he or she is seeing at the moment. In other words, observation essays are not written from memory (past tense) or from conjecture of an object’s potential qualities (future tense.)
- DETAILS, DETAILS
The strength of an observation essay depends upon the level of detail the writer provides. Details allow the reader to see in his or her mind what you are writing about. For example, if an artist did not provide details in a painting, or a sculpture, you wouldn’t know what he was trying to portray. The same principle applies for observation essay writing.
- USE YOUR SENSES
Sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell; these are your primary weapons when creating an observation essay. Writing using the five senses to interpret detail is a common practice among writers of all types. However, this technique is absolutely crucial to the writer of an observation essay. While all five of the senses might not be used in the observation essay (it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to describe how your grandmother tastes), use as many as possible to create a vivid image in the reader’s mind.
- USE COMPARATIVE TECHNIQUES
There is a natural tendency for people to use comparison in order to better understand something. One thing is related to another in order to quantify its characteristics. For the writer, the techniques of similes and metaphors allow for these comparisons. Don’t be afraid of using these techniques in your observation essay.
- CHOOSE RELEVANT DETAILS
In the search for details to strengthen the overall level of description, writers of observation essays often fall into the “over-description” trap. They will describe every detail imaginable in hopes of painting a clear picture in the reader’s mind. Unfortunately, adding in details that has no relevance to your subject only serves to clutter up the essay. Make sure that every detail you choose to include is relevant to your topic.
- SEARCH FOR PRECISE LANGUAGE
As we have stated throughout this article, the goal of an observation essay is to be as descriptive as possible. In order to accomplish this, writers should choose the most precise words when constructing sentences. For example, describing something as “small” can lead to a wide range of images, but calling something “microscopic” is much more precise.