Just Write

Take a risk and go long.

In the January 2014 issue of Writer’s Digest magazine, Elizabeth Sims writes about “Miscalculations and Missteps.”  One is, “take a risk and go long.”

“The value of a relatively long description is that it draws your readers deeper into the scene. The worry is that you’ll bore them. But if you do a good job you’ll engross them. Really getting into a description is one of the most fun things you can do as an author. Here’s the trick: Get going on a description with the attitude of discovering, not informing. In this zone, you’re not writing to tell readers stuff you already know—rather, you are writing to discover and experience the scene right alongside them.”

Sims continues with “Go below the surface.”

“A gateway to describing a person, place or thing in depth is to assign mood or emotion to him/her/it.  . . . The Bay Bridge was somber today, its gray girders melding with the fog.”

Alla Crone expertly illustrates what Sims is talking about in her historical novel, Winds Over Manchuria.

Here’s an excerpt from Alla’s book:

“On the cold Sunday of January 9, 1905, the pallid sun hung over the rooftops of St. Petersburg trying to burn its way through a thin layer of clouds. By two o’clock in the afternoon the dull light had done little to warm the thousands of people milling the streets.”

More about Alla Crone-Hayden and her book’s journey in Chris Smith‘s January 21 article in The Press Democrat.

Your turn.  Make a list of inanimate objects, perhaps landmarks in your town. Write a few sentences, giving them moods and emotions.  Or, use weather to describe and mirror your characters’ emotions.  Write a scene and, as Sims says, “take a risk and go long.”

Note:  Check back here for Sunday’s book review of Alla Crone’s riveting novel, Captive of Silence.

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  1. James Seamarsh

    The clock tower stands tall atop the rooftop of our Masonic Building, peering down at the corner of Main and Western. His face is not visible from my bedroom window. But if the wind is right, or the air laden with fog, I hear the grand bell sound, slowly groaning the hour, on nights when I cannot sleep and mornings when I prefer not to get up. And who can blame the ancient clapper, now over 130 years, whose poor memory often confuses the correct hour and peals neither the right number of times nor at the right minute, landing its first blow as much as 10 minutes before or after. That is according to my mantle clock, who, when wound tight, is too anxious, and when run down sometimes falls asleep before finishing striking the hour. And so like two old ringers, they argue the time. So I take their advice with a healthy dose of skepticism, preferring to rise a respectable time after the sun.

    1. mcullen Post author

      Hi James, love this visual description of two very different timekeepers . . . full of texture and sensory detail. I enjoy imagining the clock tower as a grand old gent and the mantle clock as his cohort. Great writing.

  2. Kathy Myers

    James; Great minds think alike. My first thought, triggered by Marlene’s prompt, was the clock tower as well. You make ‘him” real with human attributes of of advanced age— slow, groaning, poor memory— personality plus!
    The steampunk style of Mr. Clock, contrasts with the strict, stodgy neighbor at his feet. The W.C.T.U drinking fountain is concrete and square— like some of the good Christian church ladies who extolled the virtues of total abstinence as the cure for evil alcohol. She remains grim and determined in the face of the onslaught all around her. It’s a challenge to preach to the residents of wine country, but she will continue to offer a sip of cool water, and hope her message gets through our thick skulls— because she is after all, right.

    1. mcullen Post author

      Hi Kathy, I love how you gave these sturdy edifices human attributes. Well done!

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