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!

 

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/

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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

Mystical Greenwood by Author Andrew McDowell.

 

To all those who’ve purchased, read, and reviewed Mystical Greenwood, I want to say thank you. Thank you for your support and encouragement. It was recently announced as a finalist in the Epic/High Fantasy Category of the 2019 American Fiction Awards, sponsored by American Book Fest.

If you haven’t yet, I hope you’ll consider reading my book and posting a review. Every review helps spread the word. I will be very grateful if you do.

Description:

Dermot is a fifteen-year-old boy living in a remote village in the land of Denú. He has always longed for something more in his life. Now, everything changes after he sees a renowned creature – a gryphon – in the sky, and then crosses paths with a reclusive healer who harbors a secret.

Soon, he and his brother have no choice but to leave the only home they’ve ever known. They travel with new friends across the land through several great forests, along the way meeting an old man, a family of unicorns, and witnessing an important birth. They must evade fire-breathing dragons and dark-armored soldiers hunting them down, all serving an evil sorcerer determined to subjugate the kingdom, and who will stop at nothing to destroy them.

Denú’s only hope is if a renowned coven returns to face the enemy after years in hiding. Dermot however suspects their own role may be more significant than he thought, as he slowly discovers a power which exists amongst the trees and creatures of every greenwood. Can they save those they hold dear? Will Dermot find what he has sought? Or will all that’s free and good be consumed by darkness?

 

It is available in Paperback, Kindle, and Nook:

US$: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books a Million

UK£: Amazon.co.uk | Foyles

CA$: Amazon.ca

Be sure to add it to your Goodreads to-read list! The cover art is also available at Deviant Art. If you’re a fan, you can show it through your memorabilia!

Be sure to check out my publications in poetry and creative nonfiction as well!

Don’t forget to subscribe to receive notifications of new blog posts! You can also follow me on social media:

Facebook  |  Twitter  |  YouTube  |  Tumblr  |  Goodreads

Writing Grows in Fits and Starts!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So often I hear people say, “oh, I can’t do that” and I say “ why not?” Believing in you and what you can be, what you can become, is totally dependent on believing you can. It really is that simple. You may not be the best at what you choose to be, but you can do it. Being the best is not the point. The point of it all is that you did your best.

A few years ago, I was the worst fiction writer ever, although I was good at research writing. However, fiction writing is a totally different kettle of fish, as they say. It was embarrassing, as I struggled to be a fiction writer, but I learned. I learned by reading lots of fiction, by observing and studying other people’s writing, especially on WordPress – a great place to learn.

Actually, several WordPress writers helped me to be a better writer with gentle critiques and I continued learning by reading, and most importantly, by writing! The saying Practice Makes Perfect…is true, although I am still far from being a great fiction writer. I am now greatly improved and I keep practicing and writing.

Your wish to do something or be something that you never thought you could do or be, is no different than any other learned skill. You just must believe that you can, and that is what really counts – you did your best.

A Very Special Book Review: My Vibrating Vertebrae: And Other Poems by Agnes Mae Graham

 

Agnes Mae Graham’s beautiful collection of rhyming poems, My Vibrating Vertebrae, is stunning. Like a brilliant jewel, her poems will take your breath away. Moments ago, I read the last poem, and I couldn’t wait to review this book of poetry, that did take my breath away. Agnes Mae Graham’s brilliant book of poetry gave me a sense of awe, incredulity, of the beauty, wit, charm, love, grace, and sorrow, with tears of joy too.

Agnes Mae Graham brings all of this beauty to each page of rhyme and rhythm with perfect beats that flow like cadence, lilt, and is music to one’s ear; it sets the stage for deeply felt and lived emotions that bring forth memories of a time lost to all, but those who lived it.

I laughed, I giggled, I felt joy and pain as her memories brought back memories of my own; of my father and mother who experienced similar moments in their lives as well, but the stories they once told are now gone forever. It was with great joy that I can now recall them through Agnes Mae Graham’s heartfelt poetry.

Each poem she writes is unique to a place and a time. Three of her poems are especially poignant for me, The Antrim Coast Road, Journey in an Aeroplane, and Panic, yet every poem will touch you deeply and bring you to that place and time.

It is fair to say, that this beautiful, heartfelt collection will be with me always. I give this book of poetry a 5 star review.

Agnes Mae Graham

Word Painting – The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively

Word Painting

 

 

This is a reblog from a post I did in 2015, and my, how the years have passed so quickly. After writing four books, I am reblogging, once again, this earlier post. 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. I did purchase this exemplary book, and I would still keep it on my writing desk today, had not a writer friend borrowed it…three years ago. I hope it comes back home…someday soon. I hope you find Rebecca McClanahan’s non-fiction as helpful as I have when writing description for my characters.

  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.

Note: As a writer, I found all of Rebecca McClanahan’s descriptive suggestions really adaptive to almost any genre. I hope you do too. 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: CATLING’S BANE

Catling’s Bane, Book 1 of the Rose Shield series, offers the reader an amazing journey into a world so believable that the characters seem to come alive on the page. This beautifully written science-fiction pulled me into a world that glitters with luminosity. The author reveals this world with descriptions so vivid, so rich in detail, that we forget completely, that it is a fictional world.

It is a civilization very different than our own, yet still, very much the same, with problems of great poverty, injustice, and cruelty, with one exception. There are strange powers of influence, powers that control someone’s intent, beliefs, and thoughts. The poor live their lives in a caste system, while the wealthy and powerful live like royalty, and all others live by hook or by crook.

Yet, even for the wealthy, life becomes a perilous journey, because every word, ever thought, may not be their own.  There are those, however, within this system, who have courageous hearts, make great sacrifices, and if they can escape the Influencers, they may have the opportunity to change their world where everyone can speak their own thoughts and live their lives as they choose to be.

I was completely captured within this incredible world, created by the author, D. Wallace Peach. 5 stars