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 of D. G. Kaye’s Non-Fiction, “Words We Carry”

It is my belief that every woman on the planet should read this non-fiction inspirational story that reveals the negative self-esteem experiences that many if not all women encounter during various incidents throughout their lives, and the consequences of those experiences often begin in early childhood.

D.G. Kaye writes with empathy, compassion, and a plethora of knowledge using her own experiences to help other women understand the importance of realizing their sense of self that is intimately associated with our self-worth. Self-worth is not a vanity and it not excessive pride. It is how we access our own sense of being, of who we are.

The author, D.G. Kaye, writes with a warmhearted conversational style that beautifully eliminates dogma and in effect the judging of us, by us, and others for what we may perceive as a failure to have fallen victim to ridicule, to embarrassment, and instead we begin to believe in our personalities and our value in the world.

Our society often appears to judge women by our appearance: a cultural sense of what beauty is, a person’s station in life, and least but not last – money. If as a child we experienced being bullied, laughed at, ignored, and ridiculed, our self-worth without a positive, loving alternative from your parents, grandparents, and siblings—is damaged and our chances of feeling unlovable, inadequate, and homely take root in our psyche. A psyche that is damaged presents difficulties in our self-expression, our personalities, and our ability to thrive in the world without a sense of inadequacy. This sense of inadequacy leaves us open to being further damaged by others.

D.G. Kaye, the author, encourages us, helps us to understand, and presents a rationale that can and does present a newer, healthier view of ourselves as well as to develop healthier relationships. Once we rid ourselves of negativity, jealousy, envy, and that awful feeling of inadequacy; our inner personalities, our joy of life, and a sense of inner happiness will begin to shine.

D.G. Kaye’s inspirational non-fiction for women is the best of its kind that I have ever read, and a must read for all women. I give this book a 5-star rating.

 

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.

 

 

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

 

 

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!

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Book Review: Tales From The Irish Garden by Sally Cronin and Illustrated by Donata Zawadzla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sally Cronin writes a delightful fairytale that children and adults will love. Beginning with the fact, if you don’t know anything about fairies, it is important to note that fairies are very small beings that have a strong society of their own. They have all the same problems that humans have, but how they deal with their problems are quite different than humans. Their communities are quite diverse and that diversity brings them great strength in dealing with a few outliers that cause problems; like the Winter Fairy whose jealousy, insecurity, and mean spirit fail to give him any kind of reward in the end.

It is the kindness and love from the royal family, headed by Queen Filigree, that save the day when problems arise in her magic Kingdom of Magia. It is quite amazing that so many different beings like honeybees, spiders, voles, rabbits, messenger birds, Fluffy the Dragon, and many other kinds of beings, including stone guardians, manage to live in harmony together.

In Queen Filigree’s magical kingdom, where even Oaks and Elms help keep the Kingdom safe with their pollen. The trees help to prevent mean outliers from harming the Kingdom of Magia by creating dense areas of pollen that cause constant sneezing. However, one very difficult problem is the fact that no amount of help will save the Kingdom in its present location of 700 years.

Humans had decided to clear the entire area where the Palace of the Queen and all of her subjects abide. For 700 years the ancient Magnolia tree with deep roots had keep the fairies and other beings safe, until now. Including, all the honey bees whose honey was a key part of their income as well as a drink that was very important for health if not imbued too much or too often.

As luck would have it hope was insight. Messenger birds were sent to find a place to live for everyone in the Kingdom of Magia. The story that unfolds, in the Tales From The Irish Garden, includes the gracious help of the Storyteller who tells the tale like no other. The Storyteller is a gentleman farmer, who loves special roses in his garden, and who has magical skills of his own.

He begins to unfold the story that brings alive each creature within their own families, their own problems that become so real to the reader that you may never look at a Badger, a Fox, a Donkey, Mice, and so many other delightful beings that all help each other in the most amazing ways when great danger is afoot, again. Queen Filigree is forever grateful to the Storyteller for saving her Kingdom and she also improves the life of the Storyteller with an entirely new community to help keep safe. They solve their problems together in unity.

The Tales From The Irish Garden is a mythology that brings to light what kindness, sharing, caring for others, and love can bring to any society that abhors greed, selfishness, and meanness. It is a great society where every being, no matter their poor beginnings, large or small, can thrive. I give this delightful magical fairytale, with a grand and beautiful message of unity, 5 stars.

Find Sally Cronin’s Books on the following:

Amazonhttp://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

AmazonUKhttp://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

smashwords for Epub: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SallyGCronin

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.

Sue Vincent #writeprompt Photo July 12th 2019 – The Castle

                                              The Castle Walls

As I stand here underneath this ancient tree, looking out over a wide expanse of dark water, I wonder at the lives once lived in this Castle. What secrets does it still hold.

I wonder about the wandering spirits that surely abide there, still, wandering, about the Castle walls, not really aware that their time is long past. I wondered too, how they felt or if they felt lost and alone or did they still live in that long ago past. Are they in anyway aware that time passes, and other lives are lived as they once did.

I also wonder what loss or trauma has kept them wandering on this earthly plane of existence as spirits. Are they angry at some betrayal or did their grief over some earthly matter take them by surprise. I wish I could spare them their anguish.

I remain standing, alone, under this ancient tree, yet, I do not see the color of its leaves, or feel the breeze through my hair, or the brightness of the sun. I don’t hear the chirping sound of birds, or the flow of water on the nearby spring that flows through the forest.

My world is now shades of gray, for I am also a wandering spirit. How I came to be standing under this ancient tree, I do not know. So many memories are lost to me. How long have I been gone and how long must I remain in this lonely state of being? I do not know. I can only hope that my life was spent in good deeds to others or did I commit some terrible deed that I must repay in some way.

     Only time will tell.

Why You Should Never Stop Reading Fairytales!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never Stop Reading Fairy tales! by Karen DeMers Dowdall

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

 

 

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