Writer Wednesday – Peaks and Valleys

Today is going to be a short tip, but one well worth understanding. Most humans, unless they have an unusual visual memory, operate in very specific manners. Our eyes tend to focus ahead of us, with only peripheral vision being applied in cases where something is blatant. We don’t look up, we don’t look down and we operate through mapping out peaks and valleys and filling in the blanks between.

What does that mean? Well, when you look at a landscape, key elements stand out and the areas between are fuzzed over if you don’t go out of your way to focus on them. You see a house, a tree, the pool, that dip in the land where water flows in a rain storm, but that patch of grass in between is just a blur of green. Find a way to flatten out something of similar color in that space and most people will never even notice it.

Traveling troops are less likely to be noticed if they walk along paths that skirt the middle of a mountain rather than over the peaks or through the valleys and historically this has been used to good effect. Many of the ninja skills for hiding rely heavily on the human vision manner of blotting over information and focusing in on where we think is going to be important.

While it is getting a bit cheesy for people to hide just above a hallway, it really is possible and effective if you can manage it. So what does it all mean to you? That depends on what you are writing. Obviously with horror and suspense novels or stories it can have a good place among your tools. Even in other forms of writing it can prove useful. Need your character to notice something no one else does, but have no way to explain why they noticed it? Put it in plain sight and apply this sort of thinking. Need the protagonist to get away from an antagonist without falling back on Deus Ex Machina? Have them do something to create a focal point for the human eye and then hide in a spot we tend to glaze over.

Most of your readers won’t realize it mattered much, but those who do understand will realize you were using researched knowledge and provable facts in your work and will be further drawn into the story. If nothing else, you will know it is meaningful and will write more confidently as a result.

What are your thoughts?

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