One of the things that I believe makes a good writer is the ability to notice things. Whether it's how snow rests on the side of a hill or the way sunlight glistens off of the water, it's important for a writer to notice things like that. After all, how are you supposed to relay such scenes to a reader if you've never truly experienced them yourself?

Another thing that I've noticed is feelings. Today, for example, I sat in the basketball stadium of the University of Florida and watched my daughter--my oldest child--walk across the stage and receive her B.S. degree. Her education is not complete. In a couple of months she will move to graduate school--a move that will bring her closer to home, I admit, but another 4 years of hard study.

Tonight, it's all over. The ceremony done, presents unwrapped, food eaten, and I gave her a final hug by the car as the rest of us prepared to make the drive back home. I didn't want to let her go. I have been a whirling kaleidoscope of emotion and it's taken me all day to sort them out. Proud? Oh, yes, she has made me and her mom so very proud. She is a smart young woman, pretty, with a wonderful heart and my sense of humor. Sad? Yep. The little girl is gone, replaced by this adult and my desire to hug her and never let her go, to pick her up and bring her back home, yet knowing that I can't because she has dreams to fulfill and goals to reach, makes me sad.

Miss her? Yes. You see, my son has moved back home and even when he wasn't here, he still lived close so we see him a lot. My daughter and I share a bond unique, I think, to most father/daughters. My daughter has come to me to talk about things that most girls would never think of talking to their dads about. We have shared that bond since she was a child and we have always been able to be open and honest with each other without pretense.

So tonight, dear readers, I am awash in emotions. Excited about the new phase of her life and the promise that it holds. Sad that she's not here to tease and talk to, but proud as hell for the woman that she's become. We did good, mom and I.

Anyway, my point is remembering these feelings, this mixing of emotions how they swirl together and come apart in a constant ever-changing mixture of joy and tears. For in those emotions lie the heart of us all and if your characters can feel that same thing when appropriate, they will be richer and more real to your readers.

And to my daughter: you will always be my little girl. I love you and I am so proud of you.


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