ArCJ_-_Deux_chevaux_-_137_J_2743_a.tifAn academic writer/editor blogger often posts “peeves” about writers’ faux pas that she encounters during her day job. She posted one about the use of the verb, “to notice.” She advocated not using it, unless the situation is one of newly developed awareness of something that’s been there a while, and suggested sticking to the verb, “to see.”

A big problem exists with that blogger’s suggestion: To “notice” something doesn’t always have to mean “to see” something. We have five senses (six, if you want to count “intuition”), and any of them can be involved in our ability to perceive (or fail to perceive) details.

Since one of the themes in Irish Firebrands happens to be awareness and the lack thereof, I checked my e-book edition, and discovered that characters “noticed” things (via sight or otherwise) 83 times – even more frequently than they specifically smelled  things  (61 times), although, in general, the main characters in Irish Firebrands seem to be badly blinkered beings.

Here are the 27 things they “noticed” in the first 11 chapters. Of the items which have to do with sight, which ones do you think would have been better expressed as “see,” “saw,” or “seen?”

  1. The man behind the counter noticed her doubts.
  2. She’d noticed that thatched roofs were rare; most Irish houses were roofed in utilitarian tile or slate.
  3. Indeed, not one in the milling multitude in the meeting area beyond the barricade noticed that the face behind the bifocals matched the one on the television.
  4. He paused beside a tree to strike a match on the bark and light his pipe, then he noticed a basket standing nearby that was nearly full of apples in every stage of decay.
  5. When she peered round the door jamb, he noticed that, despite the faint lines at the corners of her eyes and the silver threads scattered in her dark hair, her cheeks were smooth and her throat was rounded.
  6. Examining the window, Dillon ran his fingers over some new dents in the wooden sill, and he noticed that small splinters had been broken from the edge of the sash.
  7. Now he noticed that not only had water run off her mackintosh into a puddle on the floor, but also her wet hair was plastered to her head.
  8. Then she noticed a narrow display cabinet, wedged between the near end of the desk and a bookcase.
  9. Now Lana noticed that Dillon’s musical voice no longer accompanied her thoughts, and she turned to look at him.
  10. I was more nervous than I thought I was, yesterday, not to notice those eyes!
  11. Dillon showed dimples that she hadn’t noticed before, either.
  12. Frank noticed her enjoyment.
  13. But what did seem odd, was that he hadn’t noticed the woman sitting with the musicians until she moved to Lana’s side.
  14. She followed him to the car, where she noticed dents and scratches on the rear quarter panel and a shattered tail light.
  15. The glances exchanged by the other students indicated they noticed it, too.
  16. Had a coal escaped from the firebox unnoticed?
  17. She possessed this titbit of personal information, because when he stood in the doorway on Sunday afternoon, she’d noticed that the top of his head happened to be aligned with a distinctive chip in the paint on the jamb, and after his departure, she’d yielded to the temptation to measure his height.
  18. You see, she never went to church in Drogheda, and she got to hanging around with the wrong lot, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.
  19. When the truck jerked to a halt beside the house, Lana noticed that it was spattered with coffee-coloured mud.
  20. During a lull in activity, she noticed Medb McManus standing alone in one of the open doorways.
  21. He pulled up near the excavation, and when Lana got out she noticed loaf-like pieces of sod lying in rows, and other pieces propped on end against each other, forming tiny pyramids.
  22. “I thought you’d never notice!”
  23. “Now, that I did notice about you, because I don’t smoke, myself–” he leant close again and lowered his voice “–and I like the lips that touch mine to be sweet.”
  24. Looking down at her plate, she noticed the honey sauce that had been served with her duckling.
  25. “Perhaps you’ve noticed that the hardest-working part of him’s his elbow.”
  26. She glanced across the aisle at the row of teenagers, and she noticed that one of them did not appear to be fully engaged in the recitation – Medb had risen with the others, and her lips moved with the words of the Theme, but her attention was on the paper in her hand.
  27. Consequently, Lana didn’t notice, at first, that the ‘Dillon days’ were multiplying.

©2012-2014 by Christine Plouvier


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7 responses to “Blinkered?

  1. Hmm… maybe #12? Could be switched for ‘Frank took note of her enjoyment’ or even ‘Her enjoyment was obvious.’ But none of those instances stood out to me as needing a change to be honest.


    • Thanks! Those are suggestions that, considering my writing style, I might well have used. But the gurus might criticize the first one as “wordy,” and the second one as “passive.” (Do we really care about gurus?)

      BTW, this blogger:
      reviewed a book that sounds interesting:
      Past Scents: Historical Perspectives on Smell, by Jonathan Reinarz.


  2. I think your “pet peeve” person is merely stating their own personal taste, not a steadfast rule for all consumers. “Noticed” is a specific word, and while it is very similar to “saw” or “observed”, it gives a slightly different feel to the reader. To see something is merely to witness something. To notice something implies seeing AND making a mental note of it. To observe also has more of a passive feel than to notice.

    Also, you have to consider the actual *reason* some people have pet peeves in the first place. Case in point, my birth mother is an angry rube with a distinct southern twang and bitter undertone in her voice. And she says certain words with a bit of a punch to them. Such as the word “vehicle.” She won’t say car, truck, automobile, SUV, or any other word…ever. And I happen to know that she only says vehicle to attempt to fool people into thinking she is intelligent. With her drawl, it sounds like VEE-hick-uhl (spoken very loudly). Hence, I DETEST the word vehicle, even though it is oftentimes the most appropriate word to use.

    My point? You’ll never please everyone (editors included). Trust your own judgement. If it sounds good to you, it probably is.


  3. You’re right. And that’s why I didn’t bother with submitting the mss to death, just to collect pink slips for my Ephemera file, but opted to indie-publish, instead. It’s also at least twice as long as the gurus say it “should” be, for a debut novel. The fact that it gleefully tramples at least six genre lines, defying easy pigeonholing, can’t help, either. But I had such fun writing it, and I think there are readers out there for it, but the guru-gatekeepers have them all so intimidated, they’re ashamed to admit that they really do like the “old-fashioned” style of writing. Closet Gaskell fans, you know?


    • You know, several years ago, I went to Canada to study photography as a profession. (Before that, it had been a hobby and I had “an eye” for it, but no formal training.) While I was there, it was drilled into me what was good, what was bad, what to always do, what never to do, etc. So I opened my studio and for the next couple of years as I shot weddings, I heard those dos and don’ts playing over and over as I forced myself to take photos in a style that I didn’t particularly even care for myself. Then I went to a week-long convention in Vegas and studied under some of the world’s greatest master photographers, and each class I took seemed to contradict the one before it. What I walked away with was this: The classroom taught me how to take a photograph “correctly” but the master photographers all had their own style and flair that made their photos special. I knew which ones appealed to my eye and which ones didn’t. In the end, I tossed aside much of what I learned in the classroom and I do what feels right and I take much more amazing images, with less anxiety over whether or not I am “breaking a rule.”

      Furthermore, now, rather than just being able to appreciate someone else’s photography, I can only view it with a critical eye, looking for what is technically wrong with how it was shot. I look for what shutter speed the photographer used, where the light source was placed, what F-stop was utilized, whether or not the photographer abused bokeh, and if the image was over-edited in Photoshop, rather than created in-camera. And while I can see all that I have listed, I fail to see the picture. If I was never in “the business,” my photography-as-art appreciation would not have been tainted. I think many editors, publishers, agents, et al., are tainted as well, from years of classroom instruction telling them what is “right versus wrong” as opposed to whether or not it’s a good story that people may want to hear (or read).

      Liked by 1 person

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