Descriptive Writing Exercise – Sight

Many writers use visualizations in their writing very well. Some of us still struggle with describing a room, a piece of fruit, or a sunset. We either go overboard or don’t use the right words. For this exercise, I want you to go through the descriptive word lists and pick out at least ten words that can be used to describe something visually. Choose ten that you don’t normally use. You will go overboard with this writing exercise, just like in all of them. You can go back later and edit if you’d like, but for the sake of practice, get it all out.

visual

Exercise 1:

Take your list of ten words, go to a room in your home or go outside, whichever you prefer, and start writing about the things around you.

You don’t want to tell the reader what the character sees, you want to show them.

Telling them: The coffee pot was half full of coffee. John needed coffee to revive himself in his bleak surroundings.

Showing them: The clear carafe displayed the rich darkness of his caffeine fix. The fix he needed so desperately. His bleak surroundings, in this hazy gray hospital corridor, had left him with a feeling of sunken-ness.

Exercise 2:

Describe a tree in a field. A fence runs along the tree line at the far edge.

Example:

Ahead of me I could see an open field. I fought my way through the thick underbrush until I was finally free. A gentle breeze stirred long-stemmed red and yellow flowers into a rhythmic dance. In the midst of the blanket of color stood a lone tree, it’s branches reaching out in all directions, also swaying to the soft hum of the windsong. In the distance, far beyond the tree at the wood line, stood an old wooden fence, broken in places, left there long ago by some farmer.

Exercise 3:

Go to my Pinterest Board for some great visuals you can write descriptions about: http://www.pinterest.com/pattistafford/writing-the-senses/

Example using the steak dinner from this post and adding some elements of sight to it:

I sat down to a fat, juicy ribeye steak dinner cooked to perfection. I took a few moments to enjoy how wonderful the slab of meat looked, the juices underneath were just the perfect tint of reddish brown. The green of the creamed spinach looked tantalizing next to the meat, laid out in an appealing manner on a white plate trimmed in gold. That first bite was bursting with flavor sending my tongue into a frenzy. The steak melted like butter in my mouth. I wanted every bite to last a lifetime. I’ve never had creamed spinach so good. I didn’t think I would even like this dish, but it was so delicious I’ll never think of it the same way again.

Descriptive words to consider using:

Abrasive

Bright

Cracked

Dark

Leathery

Pointed

Read all the posts under the descriptive writing category by clicking this link.

Happy Writing!
Patti

Descriptive Writing Exercise – Touch

Describing things your characters might touch can be a bit difficult, but it’s a sense we all have and most everyone can feel the same textures in the same way. Taste buds can vary greatly from one person to the next, and the sense of sight can be very different from one person to the next. But touching soft or rough textures is basically the same for every human being. Try to capture the essence of how things feel in your writing.

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Write a paragraph to describe how each of these scenarios would feel:

Exercise 1:

Sandy beach, warm sunshine. Describe how the sand feels on your feet. Is it gritty, soft, mushy? How does the sun feel on your skin? Is it warm and comforting or hot and blistering?

Exercise 2:

Describe how you (or a character) would feel walking barefoot on a rocky cliff.

Exercise 3:

Crawling through a muddy swamp. Is it slimy? Can you describe how the water feels or the plants, is it mossy? Does it feel disgusting or strangely nice?

Examples:

1. My feet sank into the warm, wet sand. It oozed up between my toes with an almost tickly sensation. I felt it glide further up my foot as it sank deeper and deeper into the thick, watery muck.

2. I laid down in the plush green grass. The velvety softness embraced me. A gentle breeze wafted across my skin sending shivers through my body.

3. The intense heat of the sun baked my skin, searing several layers deep and evaporating any perspiration that soaked my clothing as I crawled along the rough, parched ground. I desperately searched for moisture, but the arid, cracked ground had none to give.

Descriptive words to consider using:

Abrasive

Clammy

Fluffy

Sharp

Stony

Velvety

Read all the posts under the descriptive writing category by clicking this link.

Happy Writing!
Patti

Descriptive Writing Exercise – Taste

tasteTaste can be one of the hardest senses to capture. We all taste things, but each person likes different tastes over others. You want to use the sense of taste carefully. For some readers, if you’re trying to invoke the decadence of a lemon cream pie, you will succeed. For other readers, the thought of lemon cream pie will cause them to pucker. I’m not saying  not to use it, just realize that not everyone has a love for every food or taste.

Using the taste of castor oil will most likely get the same response out of any reader who’s ever had to take the stuff.

Don’t worry about your readers too much when using taste, after all it’s about what the character is going through, their sense of taste and the memories it brings out for him/her. If he/she loves lemon cream pie and it brings out a useful vision or memory that adds to the story, by all means go for it. If he/she hates lemon cream pie and it causes them to contort their facial features, then use that.

Here’s some good examples of using all the senses in a scene: http://susanleighnoble.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/using-sight-sound-smells-taste-and-touch-to-enhance-your-writing/

The sense of taste (and smell) can bring up emotions in your characters (and your readers). This is one of the reasons I’ve chosen to also cover emotional writing in this workshop.

Describe a steak dinner. It’s also being served with potato wedges, creamed spinach, garlic bread, and a chocolate mousse for desert.

Exercise 1:

Describe how delicious the meal is. Everything is perfect. (seasoned to your exact liking)

Exercise 2:

Describe it as the worst meal you’ve ever had. (Too salty, no flavor, too much flavor, etc.)

Extra practice:

Do this exercise from a character’s point of view.

Descriptive words to consider using:

Decadent

Delightful

Delicious

Smooth

Creamy

Dry

Delectable

Leathery

Bland

Example:

I sat down to a fat, juicy ribeye steak dinner cooked to perfection. That first bite was bursting with flavor sending my tongue into a frenzy. The steak melted like butter in my mouth. I wanted every bite to last a lifetime. I’ve never had creamed spinach so good. I didn’t think I would even like this dish, but it was so delicious I’ll never think of it the same way again.

 

Read all the posts under the descriptive writing category by clicking this link.

Happy Writing!
Patti

Descriptive Writing – Using the Senses

Image credit: readingrockets.org

When using descriptions in your creative writing, you want to show the reader what’s happening, not tell them. You want to pull the reader into the scene.

This can be a difficult process for writers. Bringing the senses into your writing can be tricky. Developing a balance between good narrative and straight description is hard, but over time you will get better.

Learning to use the senses in your writing and painting vivid pictures with words is something you must practice. A lot of this work is done in the editing process. When you’re writing your story, you don’t want to be bogged down in getting something exactly right. However, as you learn more about descriptive writing, it will come more natural in the first draft.

I originally designed this as a 7 week writing exercise workshop to cover all of the senses on a weekly basis. However, I’ve decided to add it as blog posts instead. The more practice you get, the better your writing will be. And to be honest, you can never get enough practice.

Think weekly practice is too much?

Ask yourself these questions:

Is your writing important to you?

Are you committed to your writing?

Do you want to be the best writer you can be and continually hone your skills?

Decide you are going to do this, to master descriptive writing, and make sure you plan time each week to work on the some exercises. It doesn’t have to be long, just a short paragraph or two, but it’s imperative that you do the work. Make the time each week to work on improving your writing.

You will love the improvements in your writing and yourself as a writer.

When starting out, I’m going to suggest that you go wild. You should even go overboard with your descriptions. Use new words and really get into the scene. Yes, too much description bogs a scene down. When you go overboard in your practice sessions, it will help ensure you have a good scene after you edit and cut out anything that isn’t necessary.

Remember, first draft is never final draft.😉

Read all the posts under the descriptive writing category by clicking this link.

Happy Writing!
Patti

Tips for Choosing Genre

If you’re new to fiction writing, you may be having a hard time deciding which genre you should write in. The good news is, you don’t have to stick to one genre, but it is best if you establish yourself in one before publishing in others. If you do decide to go with multiple genres, you will want to consider using pen names. You wouldn’t want your romance audience to be subjected to your work if you also write thrillers or horror.

So, how do you decide?

Most people will tell you to write in the genre(s) you love to read. That is good advice, but it doesn’t always work out to be the best writing genre for you. You may love to read romance, but when you sit down to write it, you get lost.

Some people say the genre chooses the writer. Others say you can just pick one. The way to choose the best genre for you is to write what you actually enjoy reading. The reason is because you’ll have familiarity in reading that genre and you’ll have a feel for the type of stories that are published in that arena.

If you find yourself drawn to a particular type of book – like suspense – then that’s what you should write. Always write whatever it is that you read. If you enjoy reading young adult, westerns, dystopians, or whatever – then that’s what you need to write. Your passion for that genre will show through.

What if it’s not an easily definable genre? Go ahead and write it anyway. Never forget that writing is a form of artistic expression and the different expressions appeal to different audiences.

Don’t worry about it if you don’t know a lot about the genre. That’s easy to learn. For example, if you wanted to write suspense and you needed to know how the police would handle a crime scene, there are all kinds of online blogs written by experts that will give you the knowledge you need to write with authority. And those blogs are free.

If you want a lot of information at your fingertips, you can invest in eBooks or print books that cover the research details – so don’t let what you don’t know stop you from writing the kind of book you want to write.

Keep it simple and happy writing!
Patti

 

Fiction Writer’s Newsletter – March 2016

The Fiction Writer’s Toolbox

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Helping You Write Better Fiction

Welcome

Welcome to this edition of the Fiction Writer’s Toolbox. March is here. In the Northern Hemisphere that means flowers will be blooming and the earth will burst forth with beautiful color. It’s a great time to hone your skills of description writing.

If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you’re gearing up for cold weather, maybe even some snow. It’s also a great time to write some descriptions.

Writing Descriptions

What is Descriptive Writing?

In this article at Writing Forward, Melissa Donovan has some good examples of how to use descriptions in your fiction writing. Telling the reader your Hero has brown eyes and blue eyes can bore them to death. Read some the examples here to discover new ways to work these types of descriptions into your writing.

Read the article ==> What is Descriptive Writing? (opens in new tab/window)

Descriptive Writing From the Senses

Most descriptive writing uses one or more of the five senses, of course. When writing fiction, you want to purposely bring certain emotions or reactions out by using the senses.

In this article,  Susan Leigh Noble offers some great information.

Read the article ==> Using Sight, Sound, Smells, Taste and Touch to Enhance Your Writing (opens in new tab/window)

Writing Craft Corner

Hone Your Descriptive Writing Skills

This month, spend some time writing descriptions. It can be something you work on from your current story, or tidbits you can add to your Writer’s Toolbox to use later. Try to show it instead of telling it.

Here’s an example:

Telling: The coffee pot was half full of coffee. John needed coffee to revive himself in his bleak surroundings.

Showing: The clear carafe displayed the rich darkness of his caffeine fix. The fix he needed so desperately. His bleak surroundings, in this hazy gray hospital corridor, had left him with a feeling of sunken-ness.

Notes/Thoughts From the Editor

I’d like to share a couple of thoughts and tips on adding descriptions to your stories. During the writing process, or your practice time you want to get a little carried away. Go overboard. You’ll cut most of it out in the editing process, but it’s great practice and it sparks the creative side of your brain.

However, be careful with your finished story. Writers could get away with lots of flowery prose and room descriptions in the past, but these days readers just don’t care. Unless it’s important, don’t describe too much, especially if your Hero or Heroine walks into a beautiful room. A simple gasp at the beauty of the room will suffice. Now, if there’s an object in that room that will later play an important part in the story, you may want to do a “skim description” and be sure to mention the item.

See this wiki about Chekhov’s Gun, for more information.

Motivation for Writers

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Book Recommendation

Have You Seen This Girl

This is a book I read recently and couldn’t put it down. Almost everyone I’ve talked to who started reading it couldn’t put it down. In the beginning, you may think it’s a story about drug addiction…but you’ll be surprised if you keep reading. The Kindle version is free, so if you like suspense and a good story…go grab it.

 

Your Thoughts

If you’ve enjoyed this issue or have something you’d like to share about the content, please leave a comment below. We love to hear from you. Also, click some of those share buttons and let your friends know so they can read our newsletters too.😉