Michaeline: Description: Part Four

A young woman sits at her vanity mirror, but the overall image forms a skull

Some people hoot and holler at the old “hero in a mirror” trope, but if it reveals more than a pretty face, I think it’s a valid tool. Via Wikimedia Commons

Last week, I talked about how description in Lois McMaster Bujold’s A Civil Campaign helped center the readers in their own bodies. I think using real, visceral reactions to food and clothing helped set up the readers to feel the descriptions of romance even more strongly.

I return again this week to Bujold’s 13th book in the Vorkosigan series to talk about how a description can orient both the new reader and the long-time fan to the new book.

This is often a problem in series: the old fan wants more and now, with just a few reminders. I think a lot of new readers also only want a few reminders of the setting and characters – they are eager to meet these new people and find out what they are going to do. But the new readers do need a handshake.

On about page three (sample chapters from Baen Publishing), we find this detailed description of Miles, who is Continue reading

Michaeline: Description: Part Two


Description can be a spark that sets off fireworks in the body. (Positive discharge, via Wikimedia Commons)

Description can be a spark that sets off fireworks in the body. (Positive discharge, via Wikimedia Commons)

One thing you should know about me: I enjoy being a devil’s advocate. I am proud that I have an open mind and that I try to look on all sides of an issue. I like sitting on the fence. And this causes me a lot of problems as a writer, because instead of “picking a lane”, I tend to wander around and check out too many things. But at least it produces a blog post for today.

So, anyway, last week I told you how I found Jane Austen to have rather sparse description, and she’s super-famous, so it must be all right, right? This week, I’m going to turn around and look at the descriptions that appear in one of my other favorite books, A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold. (link is to sample chapters from the publisher, Baen Books)

A Civil Campaign is the 13th book in the Vorkosigan series, and our hero, Miles Vorkosigan, is courting a woman for the very first time. In past books, Continue reading

Michaeline: Valentines and Love Letters

scroll with Friendship, Love and Truth weaving between symbols of love.

The many aspects of Valentine’s Day. Love is a lot more complicated than “Roses are Red . . .” and a lot more diverse than Boy-Meets-Girl. (via Wikimedia Commons)

Valentine’s Day can be fraught with expectations, and it seems that these days we almost need to put a trigger warning on the topic because so many vocal people have been so badly traumatized by the holiday.

But I’d like to start this Valentine Week from the perspective of plenty. You may not have the perfect love partner, or indeed any love partner. But if you think of love in a broader sense, it’s a good day to be thankful for the love in your life. That might be family, or friends, or a pet. One thing is for sure, though. If you are reading this blog, you have a love for romantic stories. Let’s share the love. Continue reading

Michaeline: Double Duty


Black and White photo of magician Harry Houdini with ghostly image of Abraham Lincoln. They both seem to be looking at a book. Trick photography.

Houdini and Lincoln have a little chat through the magic of photography. (Via Wikimedia Commons)

I like efficiency.

Who doesn’t? Well, I must admit, my passion for efficiency has gotten me in trouble. I’ve spent so much time plotting the best way to do a project that I wind up with no time to start it. Or I’ve tried to make one trip with my bags of grocery, and found that by the time I finished picking up the dropped items from split bags, I could have made three trips. Striving for efficiency isn’t always the most efficient way to do things.

But still, the little German stereotype in my heart loves something that does two or three jobs at the same time. And a piece of writing that does two or three things is really a piece of beauty.

Take, for example, the opening line of MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead and Unwed. “The day I died started out bad and got worse in a hurry.” Continue reading

Michaeline: Writing Good Food Scenes

Dinner at the Crachits from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens used food very effectively in *A Christmas Carol*.

Good Saturday, everyone, or whatever day it may be for you. Remember last week when I asked you to share food scenes that moved you as a reader? Today, let’s identify what made those scenes work for us, and think about how we apply that to our own writing.

I think it’s important to remember that food is a very basic need – right at the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, with friends like water and shelter and sex. When you write about food, you are writing about basic human needs that every human reader has.

I noticed four important things that turn food porn into something Continue reading

Michaeline: Developing Descriptive Tools

1001 Details of Takeshita Street

1001 Details of Takeshita Street

Yesterday, Kat talked about travelling to the setting of her contemporary romance and doing research on the spot. I have to agree, there’s nothing like going there, soaking up the atmosphere, and turning that into words – maybe in one’s diary or blog for practice before the words make it onto the page.

I mostly write urban fantasy and science fiction, so it’s not possible for me to physically travel to the Angel Caldera on Paradise 7, or visit the Goblin King’s throne room in the depths of the Cave of Wonders. I have to use my imagination, but Continue reading