Friday, September 4, 2015

Writing Descriptively (Part 5 of 7)

When writing descriptively, don't hesitate to use figurative language—if it fits. The first two below are my own.
Having planted seed in my curiosity patch, Mark will watch to see if it sprouts in my actions.

Darkness dwells within the best of us; in the worst of us, darkness not only dwells but reigns.

Love was a sacred garment, woven of a fabric so thin that it could not be seen, yet so strong that even mighty death could not tear it, a garment that could not be frayed by use, that brought warmth into what would otherwise be an intolerably cold world—but at times love could also be as heavy as a chain mail.—Dean Koontz, False Memories, p.71.
Metaphors, if well written, enliven our writing. But don't use them unless they flow from you. Here are two negative examples.

* His writing was like brilliant comets that streaked across the sky, drenching readers with a blizzard of insight.

* In the meeting thorny problems bobbed, which we tried to sweep under the rug, bobbed up several times. 

The above examples are bad because they used mixed metaphors (i.e., comparisons that aren't consistent). In the second, thorny problems starts the sentence and we get it. Do thorns bob, and we sweep thorns under the rug?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Writing Descriptively (Part 4 of 7)

What makes description effective?

You first know the correct names and terms that catch the emotion or the image. Good description goes beyond accuracy and precision to include the musical qualities of language. The sounds of your words and the cadences of your sentences reinforce the content of your description.

Think of good description as the use of the senses. Your readers need to see things. Here's descriptive writing that makes me feel I'm right in the middle of the dust bowl in 1934 Oklahoma:

Dust coated the dials on the radio, the plates on the table, and the dishes in the cupboards. Evelyn rinsed the lenses of his spectacles, and a few minutes later, she had to do it again.

Are you there? Notice the use of spectacles—which was the common word in those days. That single detail lends authenticity to those two sentences and pulls us into that kitchen.

Good description employs specific, concrete detail
for readers to visualize or experience the scene through their senses.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Writing Descriptively (Part 3 of 7)

Descriptive writing isn't a long list of adjectives. Some writers strain over using what they call strong verbs. Don't do that.

Descriptive writing flows from your understanding of what you want to say and you use your own vocabulary and styles (we call that your voice). It's not what someone called "that flowery stuff that embellishes stories."

For example, why would you write "her visage" or "his countenance" when you'd normally use the word face?

Descriptive writing tries to create an image—a picture—by selecting exactly the right words that clarify. You provide visual details that include sounds and smells, and texture.

Here's my favorite explanation, written by Richard Price: You don’t write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid’s burnt socks lying in the road.

You need to present the most significant details—those that reveal the essence of the person, object, action, or situation.

To write descriptively, I don't need to search for strong verbs;
I need to embrace my own natural voice.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Writing Descriptively (Part 2 of 7)

When you write descriptively readers nod because they get it. You pay attention to the details by using as many of your five senses as you can.

Another way to say it is that you write in such a way that readers feel they're involved in the story or the illustration.

I caught this April 30, 2001, from a lead article in USA Today. This is nonfiction called, "A puff of smoke, and then chaos at 4,000 feet" by Jack Kelley.
Missionary worker Jim Bowers peered uneasily out the front passenger window of a Cessna 185 floatplane. To his right: a Peruvian air force fighter jet.

It had been tailing the Cessna for about 15 minutes.

Suddenly, there was a puff of smoke from the fighter. Bullets pierced the missionary plane in machine-gun fashion. The jet flew under the Cessna, reappeared on its left and fired again.
Notice "peered uneasily," "puff of smoke," "bullets pierced." That's descriptive writing and puts us inside that Cessna.

Because I want readers to feel they are part of the story
I write descriptively.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Writing Descriptively (Part 1 of 7)

Recently, I worked with a new writer and tried to explain what I meant by descriptive writing. I began by telling her it was like the third leg of a stool. "No matter whether you write fiction or nonfiction," I said, "it's a skill you need to learn."

The first leg is the background information. Someone called it exposition. The second is the narration—the storyline, or the telling of events.

Then we get to the description, which paints the story in word pictures. Here's the idea behind descriptive writing: Your words enable readers to capture a picture in their minds.

I write descriptively
to enable readers to feel and visualize my writing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions from Interviewers (Part 22 of 22)

How do you deal with the issue of pride that might come up when people brag about your writing or your books?

I don't think much about pride. Perhaps this will explain. When I began to ghostwrite in 1981, publishers and "authors" never acknowledged ghostwriters' existence. Could I write and not care who received the credit? That was the issue I had to resolve.

Once I was able to grasp that my writing ability is a gift from God, I went through a ten-year period when I only ghosted for others and I enjoyed the anonymity.

Even though my name now appears on the ghostwritten books and on my own books, it's no big deal for me. I'm doing what I can do well and God has honored my commitment. I love what I do and when I stop loving it, I'll stop writing.

Where's the place for pride in that?

Friday, August 14, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions from Interviewers (Part 21 of 22)

You're a successful writer and have obviously reached your goals. How does it feel to reach your publishing goals?

I don't know because I've never established any ultimate goals. I write because I love to write. I work hard at the craft because it's the most fun I've ever had—and I make money doing it.

I'm delighted that I make a good living as a writer and it is satisfying to know that I've worked hard and God has honored my faithfulness.