How to See the Normal Through New Eyes

by Roseanna M. White, @RoseannaMWhite

Have you ever noticed how few words there are for door? Seriously. She can approach the door, listen through the wood, knock on the slab, step through the…portal? Er, not unless you’re writing certain genres. Door is something we all encounter a gazillion times a day. Something our characters encounter just as often. Something so mundane that we risk either being repetitive when we mention it, or so creative that it’s distracting.
And that’s just one example. There are countless others. The everyday, ordinary, boring things that sometimes need described. But how do we do it in a way that sounds fresh rather than dull? And more, how to make it sound unique to whichever character we’re writing at the time?

In my July release, A Name Unknown, my heroine is a thief. What’s more, she’s from the roughest part of London. She’s lived in a series of flats ready to tumble down around her. She’s never been out of the city. But for the bulk of the story, she’s in the Cornish countryside, at a manor house. Everything she experiences is new to her, even if it’s old hat to the hero. So writing Rosemary’s perspective made me really exercise my creative muscles.

How would she view the house the first time she walked into it?

What would she think of the meals?

What would this place smell like to her, sound like?

It wasn’t just about utilizing the 5 senses, as we’ve all been taught to do. It was about putting myself into the shoes of someone who had a completely different set of life experiences. Someone who was used to going hungry. To sirens outside her windows instead of chirping birds. Someone who resented the class of people she was now pretending to be a part of.

I fell in love with this process. It was so much fun to pause when I have her entering a new situation and check my own experiences at the door. Suddenly, birdsong became annoying and surprising. Silence was nerve-wracking. The words she knew to apply to things—floor, table, chairs—didn’t seem to fit these items before her. She’s shocked to see sugar on the table when it’s not even Christmas, and flabbergasted when the gentlemen stand when she enters the room. Actions I’ve described countless times in my novels had to become something new.

And rather than just observing people, this accomplished thief catalogues them—and whatever they might be wearing or carrying. Time and again I had to remind myself that she wouldn’t just notice eye or hair color, she’d notice the bulge of a handbag and gleam of a watch. To Rosemary Gresham, the mundane matters only insofar as she can turn it into a meal for her family.

To effectively write a new take on the ordinary, it requires assuming nothing. Questioning everything. Pausing as you frame each scene to wonder how it would look to eyes not your own. And then choosing your words accordingly. On the one hand, it means keeping in mind that a character who has little education and doesn’t read much isn’t likely to liken a fast-moving object to a gazelle, or to notice how silky the sheets are. But it’s instead likening it to things that will provide their POV with the flavor that will set them apart—that fast-moving object is like a train whizzing by the Tube platform, and the sheets so soft they make her aware of the roughness of her own skin.

There still aren’t enough words for door, it’s true. But we can breathe some new life into that slab of wood when we have our characters looking through new eyes at what lies beyond it.


How to See the Normal Through New Eyes by Roseanna M. White (Click to Tweet)

Have you ever noticed how few words there are for door?~ Roseanna M. White (Click to Tweet)

Write a new take on the ordinary. Questioning everything.~ Roseanna M. White (Click to Tweet)

A Name Unknown

She’s Out to Steal His Name.
Will He Steal Her Heart Instead?

Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins that helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they are no longer pickpockets—now they focus on high value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. Rosemary’s challenge of a lifetime comes when she’s assigned to determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany. How does one steal a family’s history, their very name?

Rumors swirl around Peter Holstein. Awkward and solitary, but with access to the king, many fear his influence. But Peter can’t help his German last name and wants to prove his loyalty to the crown—so he can go back to anonymously writing a series of popular adventure novels. When Rosemary arrives on his doorstop pretending to be a well- credentialed historian, Peter believes she’s the right person to help him dig through his family’s past.

Anger and danger continue to mount, though, and both realize they’re in a race against time to discover the truth—about Peter’s past and about the undeniable attraction kindling between them.

Roseanna M. White
pens her novels beneath her Betsy Ross flag, with her Jane Austen action figure watching over her. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two children, editing and designing, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna is the author of over a dozen historical novels and novellas, ranging from biblical fiction to American-set romances to her British series. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to make their way into her novels…to offset her real life, which is blessedly boring. She passes said boring life with her husband and kids in the beautiful mountains of eastern West Virginia. You can learn more about her and her stories at