Word Painting – The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively

Word Painting

Word Painting – The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively by Rebecca McClanahan (an excerpt from Writer’s Digest, January 2015) Here are four secrets to keep in mind as you breathe life into your characters through description.

  1.   Description that relies solely on physical attributes too often turns into what Janet Burroway calls the “all-points bulletin.”

It reads something like this: “My father is a tall, middle-aged man of average build. He has green eyes and brown hair and usually wears khakis and oxford shirts.”

This description is so mundane, it barely qualifies as an “all-points bulletin.” Can you imagine the police searching for this suspect? No identifying marks, no scars or tattoos, nothing to distinguish him. He appears as a cardboard cutout rather than as a living, breathing character. Yes, the details are accurate, but they don’t call forth vivid images. We can barely make out this character’s form; how can we be expected to remember him?

When we describe a character, factual information alone is not sufficient, no matter how accurate it might be. The details must appeal to our senses. Phrases that merely label (like tall, middle-aged, and average) bring no clear image to our minds. Since most people form their first impression of someone through visual clues, it makes sense to describe our characters using visual images. Green eyes is a beginning, but it doesn’t go far enough. Are they pale green or dark green? Even a simple adjective can strengthen a detail. If the adjective also suggests a metaphor—forest green, pea green, or emerald green—the reader not only begins to make associations (positive or negative) but also visualizes in her mind’s eye the vehicle of the metaphor—forest trees, peas, or glittering gems.

  1. The problem with intensifying an image only by adjectives is that adjectives encourage cliché.

It’s hard to think of adjective descriptors that haven’t been overused: bulging or ropy muscles, clean-cut good looks, frizzy hair. If you use an adjective to describe a physical attribute, make sure that the phrase is not only accurate and sensory but also fresh. In her short story “Flowering Judas,” Katherine Anne Porter describes Braggioni’s singing voice as a “furry, mournful voice” that takes the high notes “in a prolonged painful squeal.” Often the easiest way to avoid an adjective-based cliché is to free the phrase entirely from its adjective modifier. For example, rather than describing her eyes merely as “hazel,” Emily Dickinson remarked that they were “the color of the sherry the guests leave in the glasses.”

  1. Strengthen physical descriptions by making details more specific.

In my earlier “all-points bulletin” example, the description of the father’s hair might be improved with a detail such as “a military buzz-cut, prickly to the touch” or “the aging hippie’s last chance—a long ponytail striated with gray.” Either of these descriptions would paint a stronger picture than the bland phrase brown hair. In the same way, his oxford shirt could become “a white oxford button-down that he’d steam-pleated just minutes before” or “the same style of baby blue oxford he’d worn since prep school, rolled carelessly at the elbows.” These descriptions not only bring forth images, they also suggest the background and the personality of the father.

  1. Select physical details carefully, choosing only those that create the strongest, most revealing impression.

One well-chosen physical trait, item of clothing, or idiosyncratic mannerism can reveal character more effectively than a dozen random images. This applies to characters in nonfiction as well as fiction. When I write about my grandmother, I usually focus on her strong, jutting chin—not only because it was her most dominant feature but also because it suggests her stubbornness and determination. When I write about Uncle Leland, I describe the wandering eye that gave him a perpetually distracted look, as if only his body was present. His spirit, it seemed, had already left on some journey he’d glimpsed peripherally, a place the rest of us were unable to see. As you describe real-life characters, zero in on distinguishing characteristics that reveal personality: gnarled, arthritic hands always busy at some task; a habit of covering her mouth each time a giggle rises up; a lopsided swagger as he makes his way to the horse barn; the scent of coconut suntan oil, cigarettes, and leather each time she sashays past your chair.

A Book Review: Through the Nethergate by Author Roberta Eaton Cheadle

 

Author Roberta Eaton Cheadle writes an incredible and terrifying adventure; a journey into a ghostly story with many historical tales relevant to this fascinating story and incorporating many real fictionalized characters that once lived and breathed that had experienced horrors from the past.

This story will greatly please ghost story lovers and I do love a great ghost story and this story has many ghosts; there are helpful ghosts and evil ghosts as well as entities to be dealt with that are as dangerous, wicked, and deadly as you can imagine.

What I found of great interest beyond the incredible ghost story is the intriguing depth of knowledge given to the reader by the author. As I reader, I loved the historical in-depth knowledge that is a fascinating addition to this story. This author has done her work that helps to create the reality within the story.  Margaret, the main character, carries the story forward to a very satisfying ending, that will not disappoint the reader.

I give this historical ghost story by Author Roberta Eaton Cheadle, a 5 star rating.

 

 

A Review of Watching Glass Shatter by James J. Cudney IV

A Review of James J. Cudney, IV superb novel, Watching Glass Shatter.

 

The title alone intrigued me. I already knew that James J. Cudney IV, was a fabulous writer and I already loved his writing style. I knew that it would be a great read, but I had no idea it would be so superb and that I would spend hours reading it while ignoring everything else that went on around me. Honestly, if my house had burnt down around me I probably would not have noticed.

I didn’t answer my iPhone, or make dinner or finish the laundry, I was so taken by it, so entranced by it, that I could do nothing else but read this novel that is as true to life as anything I have ever read. The people in this novel, come to life as real as you and me.  James J. Cudney IV’s novel brings a realism to this novel, Watching Glass Shatter, like no other. It is so astonishingly real in every conceivable way.

Normally, when I read a book, I know it is fiction, but not this story, no, anything but fiction. This story is like stepping into a family’s life in a very intimate way, observing, as though you are their invisible friend, and wanting so much to give advice, to hold a hand when tears flowed, to cheer when things go as planned, to grieve when they grieved, to respect their choices, even though poorly chosen sometimes, but necessary.

When I finished reading the last sentence, I knew I didn’t want it to end even though it was after midnight. I realized I had been reading for many hours without stopping for nether food nor drink. I knew in an instant that I would never forget this family, their lives, their losses, and their triumphs. I also knew I would be buying the print version today. I am also thrilled that now, knowing that Watching Glass Shatter is to be printed in several languages, because I am so happy that other people around the world will love this book as much as I do, and I hope the French language is of them. I give this story 5 stars and it doesn’t seem fair…it should be 10 stars!

 

Why You Should Never Stop Reading Fairytales!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never Stop Reading Fairy tales! by Karen DeMers Dowdall 

I thought it would be nice to re-post one of my favorite posts about fairy tales. Considering that I am really into fantasy, paranormal, fairytales, and witches, this new blog title suits me to a T…Once Upon a time…. It is far better than just my name (it is way too long). This new blog title really makes me happy. I love fantasy stories that begin with Once Upon a time…Madeleine L’Engles, A Wrinkle in time, however, does not begin Once upon a time…it begins with, “It was a dark and stormy night”…that works too.

I have collected volumes of fairy tale books, everything from all of Hans Christian Anderson to all of the Grimm’s Fairy tales, Scotland Folk Tales, Irish Myths and Folklore, among many other volumes of Fairy tales. Perhaps, one could say, I live in a fairytale world of my own making. So true. I can’t think of a better place to live…especially in the world as we live in today.

Also, my collection of books includes my favorite books of tales about Princesses, Dragons, Monsters, and of course…Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit and all his friends, too. Less I forget to mention, my love of everything in King Author’s Court and the Knights, especially, the Wizard Merlin, and also,the Hobbit’s Gandalf the Grey. So many magical creatures that do often represent the best and the worst of humanity.

These stories tell me that most, that perhaps all of humanity is redeemable, because we are not given an instruction manual for raising babies, toddlers, and especially teenagers – God love them, one and all. Oh my goodness, it can be a real juggle out there for those growing up and with our delicate egos at risk…anything can go wrong.

Perhaps, that is why I love Fantasy, Fairy tales, Paranormal, Greek Mythology, and Science fiction too. Quoting the famous words of Albert Einstein, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Well…perhaps it doesn’t work with everyone. I am still learning.

I will add to that quote, if I may, my own philosophy:  “Never stop reading fairytales. No matter how old you are! We are forever learning, and not much teaches us more than a good Fairy tale!”

by Karen DeMers Dowdall June 4th, 2019

 

 

THE HISTORICAL ROLE OF WRITERS AND AUTHORS IN SOCIETY

I believe our global world is teetering on a precipice or an abyss. However  we wish to view our global situation, because there are too many dictators that have now gained power. The supposed purpose of our American Democratic Republic was, and hopefully will be again someday, for religious freedom and economic prosperity. Democracy, however, is losing.
      Therefore, in my opinion, writers can and should share their views. America’s policies are everyone’s business, because our lives, how we live our lives, are dependent upon on our written and verbal voices. Writers have a voice—an audience, a vibrant and often collective voice. Fiction, especially, is a vehicle to express societal needs and wants for a better life. Consider A Tale of Two Cities, To Kill a Mocking Bird, The Scarlet Letter, Jane Eyre, Oliver Twist, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Roots, and so many others. All of these written works represent writers speaking out about the horrors of tyranny placed on people of poverty, of color, of sex, and of faith.
     Furthermore, all of the above classic fictionalized literature, speaks to the appalling human conditions forced onto society by tyranny, greed, hate groups, ignorance, and loathe. The cruelty of mankind is a poison without a cure…unless humankind speaks loudly, writes loudly about injustice, poverty, bullying, hate, fear, racism, greed, and tyranny.
     For instance, religion is a set of beliefs based on faith, a policy of doctrine, and religion has changed lives, for better or worse, consider: The Malleus Maleficarum, The Salem Witch Trials, The Trail of Tears, The Holocaust, Roots, and so many other travesties and horrors, based on some tyranny or tyrannical religion precepts, basically humans being inhuman. I say this, because some forms of religion do not wholly, truly represent the founding of beliefs that a prophet gave to people of a certain time in history.
     All religions are faith and politically based beliefs—by speakers, writers, authors, and preachers. Our lives are based on faith. Faith is what we believe to be a given right: freedom to pray, to think, to express our beliefs, and nothing is more political than the faith of our choice. It is our right to believe in a higher power or not to believe, and we all believe differently.
     Our collective belief in a democratic republic is policy-based, and we came to believe in a democratic republic as written by authors, who expressed their views, their faith in the ability to tell us stories, stories that are based on democracy or tyranny. We, as writers and authors, are at another dangerous point in our humanity.
     We should and can choose to write short stories, novels, and commentaries that support our democratic republic; if not, we will fail miserably to defend our right to write stories. Without this right, we may see our written work burned in the fire of a tyrannical and often insane dictator.
As it is today, so many great written works are on the banned books list and are not allowed in libraries. Who knows? Your religion could be next or any and all religious doctrine based in faith, could be banned and our fiction writing banned as well.
     Whether tyranny is religious or theoretical, what we believe collectively becomes the law of the land. The voices of our written work: our novels, our commentaries, our short stories, our speeches, all are critically important to our way of life, our democracy.
Our lives depend on the written word that will reflect our collective voice for freedom of thought, of choice, of faith in our union as Americans. What we allow to endure, without our voices, will be our fall from grace.

Three Secrets to Great Storytelling!

Whispering

 

 

 

3 SECRETS TO GREAT STORYTELLING as presented on Writer’s Digest. I found this article by Steven James helpful in forming the structure of scenes.  (this is a re-blogging from 2014 but I thought it deserved a revival now, because it is simple, straightforward, and to the point.)

As a novelist and writing instructor, I’ve noticed that three of the most vital aspects of story craft are left out of many writing books and workshops. Even bestselling novelists stumble over them – Steven James But they’re not difficult to grasp. In fact, they’re easy.And if you master these simple principles for shaping great stories, your writing will be transformed forever. Honest. Here’s how to write a story.

Secret #1: 
CAUSE AND EFFECT ARE KING.

Everything in a story must be caused by the action or event that precedes it.  As a fiction writer, you want your reader to always be emotionally present in the story. But when readers are forced to guess why something happened (or didn’t happen), even for just a split second, it causes them to intellectually disengage and distances them from the story. Rather than remaining present alongside the characters, they’ll begin to analyze or question the progression of the plot. And you definitely don’t want that. When a reader tells you that he couldn’t put a book down, often it’s because everything in the story followed logically. Stories that move forward naturally, cause to effect, keep the reader engrossed and flipping pages. If you fail to do this, it can confuse readers, kill the pace and telegraph your weaknesses as a writer.

Secret #2: 
IF IT’S NOT BELIEVABLE, IT DOESN’T BELONG.  

The narrative world is also shattered when an action, even if it’s impossible, becomes unbelievable. In writing circles it’s common to speak about the suspension of disbelief, but that phrase bothers me because it seems to imply that the reader approaches the story wanting to disbelieve and that she needs to somehow set that attitude aside in order to engage with the story. But precisely the opposite is true. Readers approach stories wanting to believe them. Readers have both the intention and desire to enter a story in which everything that happens, within the narrative world that governs that story, is believable. As writers, then, our goal isn’t to convince the reader to suspend her disbelief, but rather to give her what she wants by continually sustaining her belief in the story. The distinction isn’t just a matter of semantics; it’s a matter of understanding the mindset and expectations of your readers. Readers want to immerse themselves in deep belief. We need to respect them enough to keep that belief alive throughout the story.

Secret #3: 

IT’S ALL ABOUT ESCALATION.  

At the heart of story is tension, and at the heart of tension is unmet desire. At its core, a story is about a character who wants something but cannot get it. As soon as he gets it, the story is over. So, when you resolve a problem, it must always be within the context of an even greater plot escalation. As part of the novel-writing intensives that I teach, I review and critique participants’ manuscripts. Often I find that aspiring authors have listened to the advice of so many writing books and included an engaging “hook” at the beginning of their story. This is usually a good idea; however, all too often the writer is then forced to spend the following pages dumping in background to explain the context of the hook.

IN CONCLUSION

By consistently driving your story forward through action that follows naturally, characters who act believably, and tension that mounts exponentially, you’ll keep readers flipping pages and panting for more of your work.

 

Dark Cold Water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a reblog from February 28th, 2015. 

The Indian summer began like any other when I was twelve years old growing up in the small colonial era farming community of Granby, Connecticut. The last fields of the summer harvest had been shorn of their corn, alfalfa, hay, and tobacco. The wet smell of fresh cut hay filled the air as well as the mingling aroma of tobacco fields that now lay bare of their crops. The large tobacco leafs would hang neatly from wooden poles to dry underneath white-sheeted tents. The smell of tobacco, sweet and pungent, hung in the air. It was a grown-up smell, a smell of intimacy and secret goings-on. My cousin Garrett and I would sometimes sneak up behind the white-sheeted tents and listen. Giggles, laughter, and strange noises were not unfamiliar sounds to our ears as we listened. More than tobacco leafs nestled under the white-sheeted tents.

Not far from the tobacco field was an ancient apple orchard that looked like something out of a wicked fairy tale. Walking through its darkly gnarled wood was a rite-of-passage experience for anyone under the age of twelve. To this day memories of Canton road, where I grew up, float across my senses.  I envision its tar paved darkness as it crosses over Salmon Brook, cuts through McLean’s game preserve, wanders by weird old Stewart Duncan’s farm, and the said-to-be-haunted Sperry colonial homestead. Canton Road weaves it way over-laying the swell of land occupied for ten thousand years by the indigenous people like the Massaco Indians who were a part of the Algonquian tribes. Evidence of their habitation is still visible by those who know what to look for.

Spirit Pond is one of those places. There are sightings by the locals of ghost warriors that still drink the dark cold waters of Spirit Pond and are not as rare as one would like to believe. Spirit Pond is a large spring fed body of water surrounded by tall reeds and weeping willows. Its dark cold water and deep recesses still hold untold secrets as well as the body of Minnie Brogan. My rather strange cousin Garrett was drawn to the story of Minnie Brogan and I followed suit. Young Minnie Brogan lived in a small dwelling at the edge of Spirit Pond in 1680 not far from our home in the Salmon Brook Settlement.  She was said to have met with a ghastly end. It is a haunting legend of sorts and the story appears in the town’s tourist pamphlets as a way of advertising its colonial history to visitors.

It was said that young Minnie Brogan lived a solitary existence in her meager dwelling on the edge of Spirit Pond and tended a few chickens and a vegetable garden. She also grew medicinal herbs. In colonial times, a female living alone who also concocted remedies was sure to raise suspicions of witchcraft. Yet, Garrett and I doubted this explanation and we would often sit by the edge of Spirit Pond trying to envision that long ago crime. Minnie Brogan was dragged from her thatched hut. She was bound by her hands and feet and thrown into the spring fed pond. We wondered how scared she must have been as she slowly sank into Spirit Pond’s cold dark waters. I personally believe there was more to it than just medicinal herbs. Minnie was young, alone, and was said to be hauntingly beautiful. She was accused of conjugating with evil forces. As a six grader, I had no idea someone could actually be murdered for not knowing how to conjugate a verb (although there were times I was sure by teacher at thought of it).

So, it was in winter when Spirit Pond was frozen-over that Garrett and I would go ice skating and just as often we would look to see if Minnie Brogan’s ghostly apparition would rise up from the ice. Although we never actually saw her ghostly-self rise from the pond, we imagined what she would look like if she did. I wonder about Minnie Brogan’s secret hopes and dreams that vanished into the dark cold waters of Spirit Pond one nefarious moonless night long ago. Sometimes I even imagine I can feel her presence as I dip by fingers into the waters of Spirit Pond. It is though the earth remembers her and still holds her secret longings. I, too, will always remember Minnie Brogan.

A Book Review of Haunted House Ghost by James J. Cudney IV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James J. Cudney IV’s captivating mystery, The Haunted House Ghost is the 5th book in the Braxton Campus Mystery series.  The novel itself is a marvel of intricacy, very much like a corn maze, with dead-end paths just when you think you know who the murderer is and it leaves you guessing, and you forge ahead as the Protagonist, Professor Kellan continues to forge ahead to unravel the 50 year old mystery. Beyond the mystery are unique personalities that you get to know like family.

A fascinating aspect is that the writer deftly combines 50 years of mystery about the one murder discovered after 50 years, that brings new mysteries to be solved and solved they will be. Kellan, the brilliant one or so his grandmother Nana D. refers to him, is a very dedicated amateur sleuth that puts all the pieces of the puzzle together in very ingenious ways.

Imagine that it is approaching Halloween night in Braxton, Pennsylvania and you have just purchased a historical home with a storied history of a beautiful young woman named Prudence, who was married to Judge Hiram Grey. Prudence is said to have disappeared 50 years ago during the fiery Vietnam War Protest at Braxton Campus that damaged the oldest part of the Campus Library.

You are told that Prudence haunts her family’s ancestral home that was built before the Civil War in America, but you just shrug your shoulders because you don’t believe in ghosts, until suddenly you do.

Imagine in that same small town of Braxton, Pennsylvania,  a young male Army veteran just home from the war, named Ian, disappears on the same day during the fiery episode of the Vietnam War Protest in front of the College. Therein lies the heart of the mystery, but that mystery just opens up Pandora’s box to reveal hidden crimes of money, betrayal, love, and revenge that appears to have rattled the bones of everyone in town.

Imagine it is now the present day and the Board of Directors at the Braxton Campus decides to tear down the oldest part of the Library as they wish to upgrade the College Campus into a University. During the demolition of the more than 100 year old structure of the oldest part of the Library, it was a shock to find the bones of a human being with brutal injuries suggesting a murder had taken place 50 years ago in the Library.

The town’s older generation wonders, could it be Prudence or some other poor soul? Many people remember Ian, whose wife to this day is full of grief at the loss of her husband. Did he abandoned her when he was discharged from the Army or did he really make it back home and is it his bones at the bottom of the now hollow hole?

Professor Kellan, the grandson of a longtime resident of the small town of Braxton, Pennsylvania, Nana D., finds himself in the center of this mystery as he actually bought the Civil War era haunted manor.

Professor Kellan being an amateur sleuth, knew he had to find out the truth. He manages to convince April, the town’s new sheriff, to help with his informal investigation when they become aware of the strong chemistry between them. They both aim to discover who the bones belong to and who is the murderer. Kellan devises a plan to research and dig up the ugly truth, so that he and his daughter Emma may live there without being haunted in their newly renovated home that may still belong to the disappeared Prudence. Kellan decides to get the help of a psychic medium who warns him of the danger he is in.

During all of this upheaval the Halloween Festival must go on with horse drawn carriages, haunted hayrides, and the race through the spooky corn maze. Everyone was enjoying the Festival when out of the dark, something spooks the horse drawn carriage causing deadly damage to two people, Professor Kellan knows that this was no accident.

This brilliantly conceived mystery, Haunted House Ghost, is a superb story that is thrilling, captivating, fascinating, and a very satisfying read that surprises you when you least expect to be surprised. This novel is the kind of thrilling mystery that you will want to read again and again. 5 stars

 

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

James J. Cudney IV

 

Websites & Blog

 

Website: https://jamesjcudney.com/

Blog: https://thisismytruthnow.com

 

Amazon: http://bit.ly/JJCIVBooks

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/jamescudney4

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JamesJCudneyIVAuthor/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BraxtonCampusMysteries/

Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/jamescudney4/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jamescudney4/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jamescudney4

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamescudney4

 

About James J. Cudney – Author, Book Reviewer & Blogger

 

James is my given name; most call me Jay. I grew up on Long Island and currently live in New York City, but I’ve traveled all across the US (and various parts of the world). After college, I spent 15 years working in technology and business operations in the sports, entertainment and media industries. Although I enjoyed my job, I left in 2016 to focus on my passion: telling stories and connecting people through words. My debut novel is ‘Watching Glass Shatter, a contemporary fiction family drama with elements of mystery, suspense, humor and romance. My second novel is Father Figure, a contemporary drama about two young women’s journeys on a college campus filled with secrets and tragedy. My third, fourth, and fifth novels are a new mystery series focusing on Braxton Campus. To see samples or receive news from my current and upcoming books, please subscribe with your email address at my website: https://jamesjcudney.com and you can buy the books via Amazon.

 

 

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Book Marketing – Radio or Podcast Interviews – Grab the opportunity by Sally Cronin

Having a live Interview is definitely important for marketing you and your book.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

I was very lucky to be a radio and television presenter from 2004 – 2012 and in that time I interviewed many authors about their books. The key to an interesting interview for the listeners or viewers is in preparation and research, not just by the presenter but by the author too. The purpose of the interview is to encourage people to buy your book and read it, and that is a key element you should keep in mind when answering questions.

This week a look at how you can prepare for you interview on radio and next week on camera.

Wonderful news, your hard work in promoting your new book on social media and locally has paid off and you get the call or email. An invitation to do an interview on a radio station, television show or author promoting podcast.

Getting an interview on a radio show or…

View original post 2,058 more words

A New Book Review for Garrett’s Bones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Garrett’s Bones” by Karen Demers Dowdall caught my attention immediately and drew me into this story focused on two teenagers and a murder mystery. The narrator, the young lady, is clearly established and completely believable, and her emotions are strong and vivid. It is a classy piece of writing, with subtle touches and strong character portrayal. Karen Demers Dowdall shows a deft touch in bringing the reader into the story and making us care about the people in the tale. It is evocative and compelling. The relationship between Anna, the narrator, and Garrett, of the title, is developed carefully, and I cared deeply about what happens to these two-young people. The author carefully mixes hints of the supernatural with suspense and a love story to create a very well told story. Without speaking to anything that might be considered a spoiler, I will say that this book is an excellent read! I recommend this book highly!  5 stars  by an Amazon Customer