Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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February 6, 2012

Descriptions That Pack A PUNCH!


By Laura Drake

Isn't it weird, where you find the ideas for blogs? I never miss Gene Lempp's Blog Treasures (and you shouldn't either)!

This week, I found another gem there: Catie Rhodes' Writing Lessons from Song Lyrics. Go check it out - she has a wonderful point - writers can learn a lot from lyrics. A lyricist only has a few words to paint a powerful picture. I find that shorter descriptions, well written, have more power. The most powerful descriptions are more than explanations of what something looks like, or feels like -- it can be both. What if you combine a description with how the character feels about the object?

Have you ever been reading a book, and been stopped still by a description that made you put down the book and think, "Wow, that's just how that feels!

I want to write that, more often. But how?

Not to be a Margie-pimp, but Margie Lawson's Empowering Character's Emotions taught me the mechanics. After that, I just played. I sometimes close my eyes while I type, trying to find the elusive words to capture the feeling.

Somtimes, the stars align, and I open my eyes to a sparkly, perfect description. I love doing that.

I'll swallow my nerves and share one of mine:

Fingers stole up the back of her neck, into her hair. He absently fisted it in his hand, and in that familiar tug, her world settled.   Jimmy was home.

Here are some examples by authors much who are more accomplished at this than I.

“Music could ache and hurt, that beautiful music was a place a suffering man could hide.”
Pat Conroy, Beach Music

“Her laughter was a shiny thing, like pewter flung high in the air.”
Pat Conroy, Beach Music

“Walking the streets of Charleston in the late afternoons of August was like walking through gauze or inhaling damaged silk.”
Pat Conroy

“It enclosed us in its laceries as we watched the moon spill across the Atlantic like wine from an overturned glass.”
Pat Conroy, Beach Music

“When you love someone, you say their name different. Like it's safe inside your mouth.”
Jodi Picoult, Handle with Care

"There's a storm coming; his storm." - Stephen King, The Stand.

"God is cruel, sometimes he makes you live." – Stephen King, Desperation

Okay, it's your turn. Share your favorite descriptions with us - yours or another authors.

Scatter diamonds for others to find!


0 comments on “Descriptions That Pack A PUNCH!”

  1. Great selections, Laura. Beach Music was my fav. Pat Conroy. So many books which leave us breathless or give us one magic moment of splendor. Can't go back into specific descriptions, and instead have given you three of my favorite opening lines.

    To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
    It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
    This last one is too long, very well read and worth looking up:
    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ... A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

    1. Beautiful opening lines, Florence!
      Before you say Beach Music was your favorite Conroy novel - have you read South of Broad yet? O.M.G. Finished it, put my head on the table, and cried my eyes out. If you haven't read it, go get it. RIGHT now!

  2. Thank you. Nice post. Lovely examples.

    From my soon-to-be-complete novel, Mu Shu Mac-N-Cheese:

    "Only the bone remained on the cutting board. In its center a thread of blood oozed, the red of Chinese luck. And red lanterns lighting the way. Red dragons, spirits of change. Also the red of stop signs, tired eyes, and dangerous tides."

  3. Great examples! I agree about Margie's Empowering Character's course. I won the lecture from Jenny Hansen's blog, and it definitely improved my writing, simply because she does a great job of picking examples and explaining why they work.

  4. Love the examples and the post, Laura! Just reading these makes me want to go back into mine and work harder. Love yours, by the way. I was listening to the radio in the car the other day and heard lyrics that just wowed me. I thought-hey I need to work with that. Should have written it down because now I can't remember what line it was, only that it was amazing. Note to self--write these things down. Thanks Laura!

    1. Marian, I always tell myself I'm going to put a postit note on every page with something that wows me. But I'm always so wrapped up in the reading and wanting to find out what happens next, that I forget!

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