Michaeline: Have You Seen This Dog? Do You Need To?


Describe this dog, and you could have won a touristy tchochtke from Tokyo! LOL! (Photo by Michaeline Duskova)

Well, lessons learned all around this week! The contest was a miserable failure, but my thinking about description in fiction feels much more solid.

Failure analysis later. One of the reasons I ran the contest was because I found it very hard to describe my dog. Finally, finally, about Wednesday, I started to get a grasp of the words for him, and then today, I came up with this:

He is a fluffy, scruffy, flop-eared cream-colored mutt, but the kind of cream that has been crawling around in coal mines, with streaks of grey. His eyes have the soulful look of somedog who experienced extreme depression in a past life, and wasn’t expecting too much from this incarnation either. (Fifty words.)

I realized, though, with a description like that, the dog had better be playing the part of the Melancholy Messenger Of The Story. He’d better be super-important, and not just a passing dog on the roadside. I think as writers, there’s this somewhat arrogant or even control-freak kind of thinking where we believe we want to put the images we see in our brains directly into the brains of our readers . . . and the problem is that words and brains don’t Continue reading

Michaeline: Description Part Six

Text: covered with a crimson hood, so that not much could be seen of her, save the fair, pale face, with its sad, appealing blue eyes, which looked out from beneath masses of shining golden ringlets that had strayed from her hood and lay upon her white forehead. (etc.) Complete quote at end of blog post.

Twentieth century description was a reaction to this kind of 19th century description. What does 21st century description look like? (text from Georgie Sheldon’s “Stella Rosevelt”, HathiTrust, see post for link; images via Wikimedia Commons)

And today is the last installment of this series about my inner wrestlings with the fallen angel, Description. Ah, Description, with her fair tresses flashing from blonde to auburn to black, from curls to waves to straight as the curtain of a windless night, her tender sword flashing forth to cut through to the heart, or cut one’s suspenders off so one is left wandering around with one’s pants around one’s ankles . . . . Continue reading

Michaeline: Description Part Five

Lush jungle with small animals half-hidden behind leaves

The jungle: warm, mysterious and full of hidden life — not to mention, lots and lots of layers. (Via Wikimedia Commons)

One of my most favorite word pictures in the whole wide world is Matilda Goodnight’s Bedroom of Love in Jennifer Crusie’s book, Faking It.

There’s a lot of faking, and falsehood, and playing with reality in Faking It, but in the end, everything comes down to love. Loving your partner, and loving your work and just loving your life. Near the end, our hero Tilda paints a jungle into her white bedrooom. Continue reading

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

Justine: An Exercise Using the Five Senses

Me (left) and Jilly, the most amazing travel partner and tour guide!

Me (left) and Jilly, the most amazing travel partner and tour guide!

As many of you know, I recently wrapped up a fabulous 10-day trip to England (with the wonderful Jilly as my official host and tour guide). The things I saw and did are experiences that I will eventually include in my books, with the goal being more realistic, “show-not-tell” scenes…scenes written well enough, you can imagine yourself there, even as you sit in your bed curled up with the book.

To get to that point, though, a bit of preschool-type exercises in the five senses can be very helpful to ensure your readers get “the full picture.” Using two of the pictures I’ve taken as examples, I’ll come up with some basic descriptions of different “scenes,” hitting on the major images, feelings, etc. that I want to evoke as I describe that scene for a reader.

First is Continue reading

Michaeline: “Welcome to Night Vale”

White, cold marble cloak hanging over an invisible figure. You can go inside, as if the cloak draped you. Much spookiness.

Welcome to Night Vale. Do not approach the dog park. (image via Wikimedia Commons. Anna Chromy, Cloak of Conscience)

I just discovered the deliciously creepy podcast, “Welcome to Night Vale” this month. There are a million reasons for writers to listen to it and learn – texture, conveying meaning in just a few words, patterned story-telling and best of all, the podcast gave me the most thrilling surge of romantic squee that I’ve had all year.

“Welcome to Night Vale” is structured as a community radio show with the most kindly despotic announcer in a world that is just . . . odd. Secret Government kind of odd. Regular features include the news, the community calendar, traffic and the weather – all turned on their heads as tropes. For me, the heart of the series is the romance between Continue reading

Jilly: On The Scent Of A Good Story

On the scent of a good storyDo you make good use of all five senses when writing description and setting for your story?

Last month, I entered the opening scenes from my WIP into the Virginia Romance Writers’ Fool For Love contest. I won’t get feedback until later this month, but I already got great value from my contest entry fee, because I used the judges’ score sheet to revise my entry before I submitted it. ‘Does the author use the five senses?’ was the first question under ‘Description and Setting.’ I discovered that I had four out of the five covered, with varying degrees of success, but I’d missed a trick when it came to using smells to enrich my story.

I did a little research and discovered Continue reading