“What’s That Doing Here?” The art of description

It happens every, no I mean really, every year: Candy canes hanging around until at least Easter. Why? Because I have a hard time throwing away perfectly good candy. I have visions of peppermint bark in the middle of the summer or a sprinkle of crushed candy in my natural peppermint tea.
I’ve tried buying less, or buying none at all but invariably Christmas just doesn’t seem complete without a few candy canes hanging around. Not to mention that I wax nostalgic every time I see them since they used to be my son’s favorite. Back in the day if I brought home a box his face would light up like it was treasure. One year I gave him one of those giant candy canes. He was so excited when he unwrapped it. I found it months later rolled under his bed with all kinds of fuzz stuck to it. I think that was the end of the candy cane era for him, erased by peppermint overload.
Why do I make this confession? Because as I look at the bowl of Christmas candy while the weather warms and colors turn pastel everywhere, it is clear to me it is very much out of place. My attention is sharp with the contrast. That my friends is a great tool in writing; the unexpected, the incongruent, objects that elicit an instant understanding or emotion.
For example:
“She saw the bowl of candy canes on the coffee table, the dry, prickly tree festooned with strings of shriveled cranberries and desiccated popcorn but it was the unopened gifts under the tree that broke Anne down to tears.”
I don’t have to say, the room was frozen at Christmas Day. I don’t even have to mention Christmas.
Use something memorable, outrageous, more than Christmas décor in the Spring. For example, the first thing a character sees is a stuffed moose in the living room of her new boyfriend’s parent’s house. What does that say about his family? What does it not say? With a brief description a whole lot of information is conveyed with great word economy. It starts with knowing what you want to convey about the surroundings. In a natural setting, to create peace instead of, “gentle winds, fluffy clouds, birds singing” , “a hillside with the gentle curves of a sleeping baby.” If the intent is danger instead of a “dark stormy sky, scorpions skittering and misty air”, “rising up like a citadel, six foot black rocks, teeth ready to bite.”
In the home of very wealthy people instead of swinging the camera lens around and describing all the paintings, the marble floor, the Persian rugs, find that one thing that is the epitome of wealth and zoom in on that. For example, enter the foyer of an eclectic uber rich indulgent couple:
“A live tree grew straight out of the floor with branches reaching up three floors, on every twig dangled crystals, maybe diamonds. I wanted to stop right there and sit under the dazzling, embrace of this tree and that was just the foyer.”

Full disclaimer, this principle of using dramatic, memorable, but less words is not something I figured out. I was taught this concept at a conference. It was a small conference with no agents or editors! Imagine that, no pitch sessions but a whole lot of teaching. Sometimes leaving behind the rat race to get a publisher’s attention and just focusing on the craft, is the best way to go!

Writing is fun don’t you think? Be challenged! Write on!

A Day for Cake

Maybe you have never heard of it, but today is International Women’s Day. I’m not sure what the protocol is for the day but I like to think it’s a day not for men to show appreciation for women (they do that every day, no?)…. but for women to nod at each other and say ‘carry on’ you’re in the company of many who know the burdens and joys unique to women.

My daughter and I have a tradition. It started when she mentioned to her doting father that it was IWD. He surprised us with a cake and so the tradition began. It has nothing to do with the fact that my favorite food is cake, really.

Take some time today to tell another woman that she’s magnificent just as she is and for the courage she shows living her life. Give a hug, send best wishes. Celebrate that there are women in this world (we celebrate that there are men every day, no?). Can I suggest some cake?

Best Wishes for a fine day!

See my poem posted today: “Waging War”

Waging War- A Poem

You see me and think I am strong,
a warrior,
That I stand and inspire you,
to fight on,
as though I am wearing,
a special armor.
You don’t see that I am only wearing,
courage and necessity,
like rags laid upon my back.
I march on, not in certain victory,
but the certain finality,
of the day the truth is known.
What will you think of me then?

This poem is in honor of International Women’s Day and all women who continue on even when they don’t feel capable or equipped for what the day demands.

Rose Colored Words

I’m not in the mood for gimmicks,
Is it age or am I just not agreeable,
to the cushiness of nice thoughts,
pleasant feel good phrases,
words, ideas, even songs,
that tell me, all it takes is one smile,
to light another and everyone will feel better?
Better not try that on me.
It seems so far away,
from my soul,
the place inside that knows,
it is going to take more than an expression of peace,
to be at peace.
Can we get past being afraid to tell the truth,
tell it like it is and
still be okay?

And the Owl Says…The Art of Sound

Through the fog sleep came the gentle, almost comical “who, who, who”. I didn’t hear a “t” at the end but in my blurred state of wakefulness, I still knew the morning alarm was an owl. With that recognition, a picture of him was clear.

I’ve seen this owl twice in six years. It is small and as mysteriously graceful and wise looking as any owl can be. I know he is a ‘he’ because his early morning hooting is actually wooing his mate. Although he woke me up an hour before my planned time, no resentment came to my mind. It makes me supremely happy to know this little creature has taken up residence near my home.

So my day has started with happy thoughts just by a sound. That’s a powerful means to create an emotion. You know what that means? Describing a sound is a powerful tool for a writer to have. But it’s not just about words, it’s about the right mix of recognizable phraseology and fresh insightful ways to conjure up a sound from a page instead of a speaker.

Take for example the sound of water dripping in a dark, distant place. Is it the plunk, plunk, plunk echoing in the next room that tells the reader there’s a pool of water nearby? Or is it the dissonant music of water being swallowed up by water one drop at a time that suggests there’s a dark creepy pool of water nearby?

Give it a try. Add your best description of water dripping in a comment or post on your blog and ping back to here to share with the rest of us.

Thanks and have a great day! I’m betting I will thanks to the gentle, knocking on my brain from a wise little owl.

Discount Diva

Are there any clearance rack buffs in the house? No really, is there anyone else that always checks out the clearance rack first in a store? I am a diehard, deal detective when it comes to shopping. The thing with discount items is you have to be willing to hunt and be open minded about what you find. Some of my favorite clothes have had yellow or red dot stickers on them.

For example, I have a 3X men’s night shirt, Star Wars! Cost me $4. It is huge enough to get comfortably lost in and just off beat enough to appeal to my non-conformist bent. That’s another thing about clearance. I don’t go there to look for a specific item. If a grey sweater is needed to go with a plaid skirt, I’m not wasting my time on the jam-packed rows of random clothes tucked into the corner of the store. But if I’m looking just to see what I can find, well that’s a different story.

Some may think it’s a waste of money to search through miscellaneous, cheap, new clothing just because it’s well, cheap but I’ve learned a secret about this kind of shopping. When I find something that’s not what I would usually consider buying but it’s designer or top-quality fabric and the price is slashed to just a few dollars, I often take the chance and get it. The result? I have expanded my life. What? Yes! I bought a shawl once because it seemed comfy (kind of big on my list!). I would never have bought a shawl except for the price and the promise of comfy, but I soon found out a shawl is a very versatile and fashionable article of clothing.  I did the same thing with a short purple jacket with big buttons. Don’t you know, that jacket became part of an outfit that everyone thought was super trendy (new trend…I’m not into trendy; not since high school that is). I would not shell out forty bucks on a long shot, but for eight, why not?

Enter stage right the connection to writing. It’s so easy to stick with what you usually do, subjects you typically like. You might say, “I don’t write romance” or “I write only in first person” or “I can only write characters who are just like me or my family”. Maybe it’s time to go to the clearance rack, pick out a few things and try them on. What would be a stretch into something new for your writing? For me that might be writing humor or historical fiction or maybe a short story about a lost unicorn. Who knows, you may find that you have great talent in a genre or style that you wouldn’t normally consider trying.

Give it a go, see where it takes you. Write on!