Tag Archives: Guest Post

Steampunk Tea Served Cold by Dennis De Rose

Thank you, author and editor Dennis De Rose for responding to last Wednesday’s Visual Writing Prompt. I’m happy to be sharing your story here! Dennis happy to hear any feedback so comments are welcome!

WVWP-047

“Opa, can you tell me a bedtime story? I’ve had a grueling day and I’m all keyed up.”

“Mikey, how can a six-year-old have a grueling day and be keyed up?”

“Opa, age has nothing to do with it. I need your help. Dad told me I had to be asleep in twenty minutes. I was already tensed up and now look at my fingernails. Opa, my life is a roller-coaster. And you’re the only one can make the ride as smooth as pudding.”

“Mikey, I love your analogies.”

“Opa, please, I don’t care about allergies. I need to relax and you know it only works with you.” Analogies and allergies, close enough…

“OK Mikey, get under the covers and let me turn the lights down. Let me think for a second. Are you ready for a hum-dinger? You want happy or scary?”

“Opa, remember, I am almost seven. I can handle anything. But Opa, don’t turn those lights down all the way. You know how I get. Before you start, what’s the title? You know the title has to come first.”

“How right you are Mikey. This story is entitled Steampunk Tea. When I was little, just about your age or a little older… I’ll never forget one bitter cold winter night…”

“Stop Opa, you know what I have to ask you?” I shook my head. “What in the world is steampunk?”

“Steampunk is something that takes place in the past; you know history, when a lot of machines were run by steam, before electricity, with elements of science fiction thrown in for good measure.”

Well, I kinda get it but it’s a little foggy. Like Star Trek but before the electric light was invented which must have been hundreds of years ago.” I patted Mikey on the head.

“… I thought I heard a noise in my closet. I woke up out of a sound sleep. Next thing you know I saw a big shadow by the closet door so I high-tailed it under my bed, grabbing my blanket and pillow in case I needed to build a fort. I knew the corner was the safest place to be. This wasn’t my first rodeo. But when I leaned up against it, the corner felt funny, like a sponge…”

“Wait Opa, when did you go to a rodeo?”

“Mikey, I’ve never been to a rodeo. When I said ‘not my first rodeo’ I meant I had been under the bed many times. It’s just an expression.”

Oh, OK, I’ve been to that rodeo too. I’ll have to remember that. Let me place that in my memory bank.” I just smiled and continued.

“… Next thing you know the sponge wall sucked me in and threw me out the other side. But I was lucky. I landed on a trampoline and I was dressed all warm and toasty.”

“A trampoline, Opa, are you making this up as you go along? This story sounds fishy to me.”

“Mikey, I swear I am telling the truth. This is for real. Now, where was I. So, there was a pretty girl standing next to the gadget, like she was expecting me.”

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

“Hey, boy, where did you come from?” After I stopped bouncing, I got a good look at her. I could tell she was older than me. Her long red hair was tied up with pink ribbons; her cheeks were red probably from the cold.

I sat on the edge of the contraption just looking around, trying to get a sense of my unreal surroundings. It was dark, cold and foggy to beat the band. Looking over my shoulder, I saw four giant blinking teapots, each one sitting atop four huge spaceship-like legs on rubber wheels. My mouth fell open, my eyes grew large and I started to shake. It was hard to breathe.

The girl stamped her foot to get my attention. “Boy, I asked you a question. What’s your name and where did you come from?”

After she helped me down, I calmed down and answered her questions. “My name’s Dennis and I’m from New Holland, Michigan. And to answer your next question I don’t know how I got here. I was under my bed one second and bouncing on that thing the next.”

She looked at me and shrugged her shoulders. I didn’t know what that meant so I just stood there, waiting. “Come with me and I’ll show you around. Don’t be afraid. By the way, my name’s Carla and I’m almost eleven. Follow me.”

Carla grabbed my hand and all of sudden I didn’t feel the cold and I stopped shaking. Walking toward the lights, the teapot structures grew clearer and I saw people walking back-and-forth, talking to their neighbors. There were old bikes scattered about. The people were dressed funny. Some of the men wore cowboy hats, dungarees and heavy cotton work coats. The women wore bonnets, funny long hoop skirts and heavy wool shawls. The four teapots were tethered and each one had a metal ladder going from bottom to top. Walking closer, I dared to touch the hollow leg of the first teapot.

Carla grabbed my other hand. “Don’t touch that; you’ll burn yourself. Each pot is propelled by a steam engine located at the top, in the lid. Steam is forced to the wheels under high pressure. We are one of the clans, the Tea clan, and we move from place to place trading with other clans. This is our pot. Stay here while I talk to my Ma and Pa.”

I stood there listening to people speaking a language I had never heard before and watching kids playing some sort of tag game, running around the legs and wheels from one structure to the next.

Carla tapped me on the shoulder and my hair stood on end. “What’s wrong, breathe.” She smiled and her eyes lit up. “I asked Ma and Pa if you could stay with us for a while until we can figure out how to get you home again. Climb up but be careful. I will be right behind you. Take your time.”

We climbed up and through a door, but not any door I’d ever seen; there was no doorknob and it wasn’t on hinges. The door was made of a thin rubbery self-sealing material. “What the blazes is that? And it’s warm in here.”

“We traded for that new door stuff. My Pa tried to explain it to me but it’s too technical. I’ll figure it out later, he told me. The heat is forced down through vents in the ceiling. This is the second floor. Did you notice the bottoms of the kettles glowed red? Each home has a coal bin at the back; the coal is fed by conveyor belt to the fire pot. The bottom floor is a little warmer. We’re lucky the floor is heavily insulated. Oh, I forgot to tell you to take off your shoes and those thin socks.”

“Carla, my feet get cold easy. What am I going to wear?”

“Here, I have an extra pair of wooden shoes and heavy wool socks. We all wear wooden shoes. How do they feel? If you like them you can keep them.”

“You know, they feel very comfortable and my feet are toasty. Usually my feet are cold even wearing my heaviest socks. Thank you.”

“Would you like something to eat and drink? The cold always makes me hungry. We have some goat cheese, some homemade black bread and iced tea in the cooler.” I was getting sleepy so I just shook my head. “I have to go downstairs. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

We sat together at a low table in the center of the room. “Denny, how do you like the meal? I know it’s not much…”

I looked up from my plate. Carla had surprised me. No one had ever called me Denny. “I never had goat cheese or black bread but I like it. The cold tea reminds me of home. Say, something has been bugging me. How come you can speak English but everyone else speaks a different language?”

“I speak English because you do. I cannot explain that. It’s like I’ve always known English. My parents and their friends speak Dutch.” I tried to wrap my mind around that but like other things I’d seen, I just couldn’t figure it out.

“Say, Carla, I’m kind of tired. Is there someplace I can rest for a bit? We can work on me getting home tomorrow.” Carla nodded and guided me to a darkened section of the room divided into three heavy-curtained bedrooms.

“Here, this is the extra bed. Sometimes I have a friend over. Tonight you are my friend.” I had never seen a featherbed before. As I lay down she helped me remove the wooden shoes but the wool socks were so warm I decided to keep them on. She placed a light blanket over me as she bent down and kissed me on the cheek. I never heard her parents come in.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

“Mikey, when I opened my eyes I was cozy in my own bed still wearing the same cloths.”

“Opa, do you expect to believe that wild story? I mean, I loved the story but…”

“Well, Mikey, you don’t have to believe me but look under your bed.”

Mikey’s eyes grew as big as saucers. “A Pair of old wooden shoes and heavy wool socks! Opa, I can’t believe it. How…?”

“That’s for you to decide. But they’re yours now if you want them.”

A tear rolled down his cheek. “Opa, you can turn the light off now and thanks for everything.”

I kissed him on the cheek. He smiled at me and gave me a big hug. The door closed with the softest click.

LINE BLACK copy

Dennis is a wonderful storyteller and a good friend. See below for links to his other writing and his editing business.

 

 

 

 

 

My Prima Dreams by Dennis De Rose

Thank you, author and editor Dennis De Rose for responding to last Wednesday’s Visual Writing Prompt. Your story was vivid and alive, I’m happy to be sharing it here! He’s happy to hear any feedback so comments are welcome!

WVWP-046

My Prima Dreams

… by Dennis De Rose

Bonjour mes amies, have you got a moment? Let me tell you a little story. My name is Mathilda and I am not what I used to be…

It was 1945 and the Big War had just ended. I remember the American soldiers freeing us from those German war dogs. That’s what my Maman called them. All these years later I am still haunted by my memories: looking out my bedroom window, seeing mothers and their children shot and killed or reduced to bits of bloody flesh thanks to German Sprengebombes, so many falling from the sky. I would go to bed shaking and wake up still cringing under my covers. I was only ten years old.

I will never forget the day Maman told me we were going to take a little walk, just a few streets down from our home. After lunch she bundled me up, grabbed a small bag from the floor and we began our little journey, I remember looking around, seeing people who appeared to be dazed as if they were looking for something that should be there but wasn’t anymore. The Americans were busy moving huge blocks of stone with giant growling machines. Ladies in uniform were handing out water in metal containers and sandwiches wrapped in heavy brown paper while talking to the lost ones, trying their best to comfort them. One of the ladies smiled at me and gave me a piece of bread and cheese. That little act of kindness will be etched in my memory forever.

Oh that building, it was like a giant stone masterpiece with its huge arches, two winged angels looked down on me from maybe 500 feet, at least that’s what I saw when I looked up. The golden façade nearly blinded me. And when we stepped inside it took my breath away. The Grand Foyer was magnificent, mirrors everywhere, parquet floors, sculptures and paintings, colored marble all around.

Maman had enrolled me in the Ballet de l’Opéra National de Paris and we were inside the Palais Garnier, a monument dedicated to producing the best opera and ballet worldwide. You see, Maman knew I had my heart set on becoming the best ballerina ever, she had watched me as I pirouetted through the halls, dressed in my pink tutu. But I did not know I would be staying here for a very long time, only allowed to see my Papa and my Maman every Sunday.

I kissed Maman on the cheek. She handed me the cloth bag and Mme. Carlotta showed me to my tiny room on the very top floor. She had a grumpy face and she was very quiet. Quiet people make me nervous; they cannot be trusted. The room was dusty and very hot, too hot for winter. Looking around, which didn’t take long, I spied a small rickety bed, a wooden chair in need of serious repair, a little beat-up wooden table, an old desk light with a funny looking bulb in it and a clay pot under the bed. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the dust motes flying all around. The one saving grace was the small dirty window that actually opened so I could see outside and get some fresh air.

The hot air in the room, my room now, made me tired so I decided to nap; I hadn’t slept well the night before. A sharp knock at the door shocked me to attention. Opening the door, I expected to see the sour Mme. Carlotta. The lady gestured and mentioned her name, Mlle. Yvette. I followed her down a set of backstairs and into a small poorly-lit dining room.

Our first meal was not gourmet, a bowl of warm thin soup, a crust of bread, a slice of goat cheese and a small glass of watery wine. Mlle. Yvette sat at one end and Mme. Carlotta was seated at the other. Suddenly, it struck me, no one was talking. I raised my hand to ask a question and before I could utter one word, my fingers were whacked with a long narrow stick courtesy of Mlle. Yvette. I cannot tell you what I was thinking, it was very unladylike. If my Maman ever heard me say those words I would have soap in my mouth before I could blink an eye.

Another sharp bang on my door, and I was awake at 6AM the following day. Fifteen minutes later we were seated at the same table drinking weak coffee and eating a slice of stale bread with butter and a slice of the same goat cheese. It looked moldy but I dared not utter a peep. Without a word spoken, Mme. Carlotta grabbed me by the hand and yanked me toward a small closet on the other side of the room. She glanced at me as she opened the door. I remember thinking she might be going to shove me inside and lock the door. Instead, she handed me a dirty white tutu and an old pair of pointe shoes, obviously one size too small, while gesturing toward a screened-in alcove.

My first day of beginner instruction and it continued until 10 that night with only two short breaks in between. I found out the hard way that my pirouette was a disaster, my plie was horrendous and my pointe work was shoddy at best. Over time, my grand plie, my demi-plie and my pointe work improved.

Let me rest. I need something to drink. All this reminiscing is making me thirsty. Now where did I put that bottle of Dom Perignon? Here it is. Half a glass, there we go. You know, I have to laugh. We French must be in love with the letter P, so many ballet words begin with that letter. How funny is that?

Now, where was I? Oh yes, the second day things started to look up. I made a friend, very quietly I might add. Violette Verdy was a third year student and at the top of her class. She was blonde to my black and tall to my short. Maybe she felt sorry for me but we became friends and I never questioned her motives. She was the Ying to my Yang. We became inseparable, on the sly of course.

You know, from that day on, my tutu seemed cleaner, my shoes no longer pained me and the long hours didn’t seem as long as before. But the food was still substandard, nothing could fix that. I felt lighter on my feet and my dancing improved (Violette worked with me afterhours up on the roof). But don’t tell Mme. Carlotta or Mlle. Yvette, that’s our secret. My room was still hot and dusty but I found out Violette was no better off.

I saw Maman and Papa every Sunday and I would show them what I had learned. We talked about the school and my new friend, Violette. But I never complained about what went on at school or during classes. They laughed when I told them the students had a nickname… Les Petite Rats. Maman was such a good cook but when she asked me what we were eating I would change the subject.

In 1950, Violette graduated at the top of her class and was given the coveted title of Prima Ballerina. I graduated from Intermediate two years later, dancing in several shows in and around Paris until I met my future husband, Michel, a pastry chef. By that time, Violette was touring all over Europe but we still kept in touch by post. We spent as much time as we could together whenever she was performing in and around Paris.

Violette gave up dancing in 1965 when she married Charles, a famous singer, and settled on the outskirts of Paris (I remember teasing Violette because Charles was five years younger). Ballet de l’Opéra National de Paris was looking to replace Mme. Carlotta and Mlle. Yvette due to their age and less than desirable disposition. Violette was a welcomed addition to the staff. In her free time, she often played with our three children, Mireille, Michelle and Michel Jr. Violette and Charles never had any children of their own.

Time flies when you’re having fun, that’s what they say. After my children were grown and had families of their own I decided to do something else after helping for years in our bakery. I never forgot that little dusty room and how it bothered me so much. I spoke to Michel and we agreed that I should clean houses to help me pass the time. We didn’t need the money. A few years later Michel sold the bakery.

I’m ready for another glass of wine. When I think about it, I have done quite a bit in my life. The love of my life, Michel, passed away eight years ago but we were happily married for almost 60 years. Violette, God bless her, died one month after my Michel. Luckily, Charles is still around and we spend quite a bit of time together. He still sings like he’s 30 and he fills my days with joy as we sit around remembering the “old” days.

Say, it’s been awfully nice chatting with you. I have to rush off. Charles is meeting me at the old bakery (I still get a discount). I’m not what I used to be but I’m happy.

Bon soir!

LINE BLACK copy

Dennis is a wonderful storyteller and a good friend. See below for links to his other writing and his editing business.

Author Chat: Debbie Moyes

Today I’m pleased to chat with author Debbie Moyes and introduce you to her latest books.

INSPIRATION copy

  • When and why did you become a writer, what inspired you? What makes you stand out from the rest? What Inspired you to write these two books?

A year ago, I watched an episode of 60 minutes about an entertainment time capsule in the midwest, and a story line popped into my head that absolutely refused to leave. I couldn’t function anymore, so I decided to write it down, and before I knew it, the story-line had turned into a book. Then that book turned into a sequel, then into a third novel. 

  • What draws you to your current genre? Or what’s the coolest thing about your genre?

As far as my genre, I have always been a science fiction nerd. I grew up watching Star Trek and find anything science-related to be so fascinating and entertaining. Naturally, that’s where my mind goes when I think of stories. I love the innocence of young love and adventure, and also tend not to use things like swearing, drinking, immorality, etc. Which naturally draws me to Young Adult. I absolutely love clean YA books. 

WYS copy

  • What’s your secret, how did you get from first drafts to publication so quickly? Maybe we could adopt some of your habits.

People ask me how I wrote books so quickly. First of all, I treated it as a full time job, giving up television and staying up until my eyes couldn’t stay open any more. The story gets out quickly for me, because I see it literally as a movie in my mind, everything the characters do and say, and then I simply write down what I see. Editing is the hardest part, going through a million times, having others edit for me, etc. It’s a longer process, but it’s worth it, because seeing your work in print/ebook is awesome!

  • Tell us about your cover designs!

My covers are amazing. I knew I couldn’t have people on the cover, and I knew it couldn’t look too “Science Fiction-ish,” considering that a large part of the book is on the planet instead of space, and is much more adventure sci fi than hard sci fi. I love how the covers for both book one and two tie together really well–there’s no doubt that you can tell they’re in the same series. Both covers give off the feel I was looking for. 

  • Tell us how you hit #1 on Amazon, how did you market your books? We could use some pointers.

As far as getting to #1 on Amazon, I used basic marketing techniques. I did the advertising thing on Facebook, and told people that if they were kind enough to mention the book, to NOT say that they knew me in any way. It sounds more legit to hear someone say they read a good book, than to hear that their friend/sister/cousin wrote a book and everyone should check it out. I brought out the sequel quickly after the first book, in the hopes that readers would want to go straight to book two, instead of having to wait and then forgetting about the series completely. I also used the kindle select free days to my advantage. When the book was scheduled to go free, I signed up on several different book promotion sites and applied for my book to be featured as a free book with them. They were all free, although there’s many options for paid promotion. The days that it was free, it was being shown on various sites, as well as twitter. When people downloaded it for free, the hope it that it would then draw them in to buy the sequel. 

  • What are some helpful tips you could give to aspiring writers?

Advice I could give to any other writers would be to use others. Get many people to read your work and honestly critique it. Change things that don’t work, even if you love them dearly. And absolutely don’t stop writing, ever! Getting success with your writing is slow going, but don’t stop trying. 

WAYB copy

  • What journey will we experience with your story, what will we come away with?

Something I love about my series is that it’s clean. Way too many books, even Young Adult, are full of swearing, sex, drugs, etc. I love when a book has an awesome story without having to include those things and wanted to make mine that way. There’s a twist in the story that I find fascinating– it makes you look at our world and the universe in general in a different way. My stories also touch on the subject of morality and compromising values for the greater good. Is it justified? Or is it still wrong?

  • What can we expect from you next and when?

I have the third book in the World 4 Series coming out in October 2016, and another YA series in the works. I put out “hidden chapters” (parts of the story that didn’t make it into the actual novel) onto my website www.debbiemoyesauthor.com, as well as updates and random ramblings. I can’t stop writing!

line orange

Get Your Copies Today!

Click to Purchase

Ad Final

line orange

Hello! Im melting in the desert of Arizona while taking care of my four kids. Science fiction has always been a love of mine, as well as adventure and of course, anything Young Adult. I started writing World 4 as a kind of secret hobby, which then exploded into a full-on series and my new, awesome passion. I love stories that can transport you to a different place and introduce new ideas. I love these characters, and want so badly for everyone to know their story!

131577-whitewashed-star-patterned-icon-social-media-logos-facebook-logo131578-whitewashed-star-patterned-icon-social-media-logos-facebook-logo131647-whitewashed-star-patterned-icon-social-media-logos-twitter-bird3

line orange

IDMR copy

Craig Boyack – Guest Post: Short Story Writing

Guest Blog Template copy

I really appreciate the invitation, and the topic challenge. I never really put much thought into how I came to write short form stuff. It kind of evolved, but reflecting upon that, hopefully, leads me to a good article.

Once upon a time, I wanted to write a novel. I picked up my iPad and started typing away with no idea what I was doing. I had no idea what the rules were, or that they even existed. Looking back, it was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my writing career.

The final product sucked, but I didn’t know that at the time. I kind of wandered from one cool idea to the next without much of a game plan. What I wound up with was quite a bit like a television series. The same characters engaged in tiny vignettes that were kind of cool. Archaeologist might look at those one day and decide they were my first short stories. (They certainly weren’t a novel.)

I’ve always loved short form stuff, and in many ways prefer it to a novel length work. Time is a big factor for me, and I really dig a story I can complete in one session. Prior to that first “practice” novel, I read lots of Poe, O’Henry, and magazines. I enjoy some of the ones dedicated to short stories, like Hitchock’s, Ellery Queen, and others. It never really occurred to me to write my own.

From magazines, I wound my way into comics. I think this is a wonderful way to tell a story, and there are some great graphic novels out there these days.

My Blog, Entertaining Stories, had been live for about a year when October rolled around. I wanted to do something on my blog that felt like Halloween. I enjoy reading a kind of micro-fiction called Creepy Pasta. I thought I might try my hand at that.

I did some snooping around, and someone has a website by that name. I probably have no legal worries, but didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes either. Who knows, that person might someday prove to be an ally in my self publishing journey. I came up with the name Macabre Macaroni instead.

I posted a complete story per week during October, and my blog stats spiked. One of them was the most popular post I ever made for a long time, and it’s still in my top ten. I decided the short form still had fans somewhere out there, and did a bit of digging.

Traditional publishing shunned the short form. Oh sure, some of the biggest name authors can get away with a book of short stories, but for the rest of us it’s pretty limited. Amazon changed all that for us. These days, novellas, novelettes, short stories, and even poetry are making a comeback.

Guest Blog Template Author Quote copy

I’m a big believer in challenging myself, and include a personal challenge in all of my novels. It might be unnoticed by the reader, but it forces me to grow and improve. I approached short stories with that mindset. I’ll never know if I can write one until I write one.

I scoped out my competition, and many of them offered a single short story for 99¢. Others were writing a series, and offering a prequel for 99¢. I decided to offer a book full of short stories, and micro-fiction, for 99¢. It seems like a better deal, and it sells pretty well for me.

I searched for the rules once again, and there aren’t many. Sites offer up word count for the various lengths, but none of them seem to agree. Therefore; I reject their reality and substitute my own. I break it down this way:

  • Flash Fiction = one paragraph
  • Micro Fiction = a decent blog post. 1000 words, pushing my luck at 1500
  • Short story = 5000 to 30,000 words
  • Novella = 30,000 to 80,000 words
  • Novel = 80,000 words and up

It used to bother me that there are holes in my list. It also bothered me that novelette didn’t find a home. Today, I really don’t care. The actual story is more important than the pigeonhole it goes in. As a self publisher, I don’t have to conform to a bunch of categories that different websites define differently anyway.

My short form tales are also proving grounds for me. I called the first book The Experimental Notebook for a reason. Short form allows me to experiment with new things. I recently wrote one that I’m pretty excited about as a big monologue. It would never work as a novel, but I think it’s a great short story. I also wrote my first epistolary style story as a short story.

At some point, I’m going to put out a second Experimental Notebook. The first one sells well, and I’ve gotten some wonderful reviews. It can also be looked at as a gateway drug into my novels. Someone might take a 99¢ chance, and decide one of my novels might be fun.

I write speculative fiction, and for me the fences are pretty far apart. My stuff varies from paranormal to science fiction, and the occasional fantasy. This gives me plenty of room to keep things fresh, and the short form stuff does the same.


I hope I’ve encouraged some of you to take a chance on short form. As writers, you can try new things without dedicating months to a project to see if it works. Now you can use those cool ideas that won’t carry an entire novel. As readers, you can enjoy a complete story on your commuter bus, or coffee break.

If you’d like to check out some of mine, you can read The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack here: http://a-fwd.com/asin-com=B014S2BA4U

Cover Art

A speculative selection of micro-fiction and short stories. These were designed to be short reads for your commute, coffee break, and other times when readers are pressed for time. This book contains a bit of science fiction, some fantasy, and paranormal stories. 

I’m excited to see short fiction returning in popularity. I hope you will enjoy these stories as much as I did.

 

 

Connect with Me

Follow my blog:

screenshot-coldhandboyack.wordpress.com 2016-04-28 16-16-07

Check out my novels here:

available-on-amazon-button-300x109

My Social Media Links:

twitter   GoodReads-Icon (1)    fb


 

Powerful Writing Techniques

canstockphoto4420590

By

Take a moment, close your eyes, and recall a story that truly engaged you as a reader – one whose world and characters became completely real for you. Got one?

Now, take off your reader hat and don your analytical writer hat to think about what makes that story so captivating. What writing techniques did the author use to bring the story to life? Was it the wrenching appeal to your emotions, the vivid and brutal action scenes, or the high stakes facing a character? Mastering these and other storytelling methods is the key to writing your own engaging tale.

Just as a lion is the product of all the zebras it has eaten, a writer is the product of all the books he or she has read. Reading the works of skilled writers is a fabulous way to hone your craft and learn how to effectively employ the writing tactics that help you create your own captivating story.

Here are five great examples of writing techniques that bring the story to life for readers, as demonstrated by five accomplished writers.

1. Invoke multiple senses

When you experience a situation, you pick up more than just its sights. By describing sounds, scents, tastes and sensations, you’ll immerse readers in your story’s world.

The following scene from Saladin Ahmed’s “Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela” does a wonderful job of pulling the reader into the story by using senses other than sight.

Her voice is more beautiful than any woman’s. And there is the powerful smell of jasmine and clove. A nightingale sings perfumed words at me while my mind’s eye burns with horrors that would make the Almighty turn away.

If fear did not hold your tongue, you would ask what I am. Men have called my people by many names—ghoul, demon. Does a word matter so very much? What I am, learned one, is Abdel Jameela’s wife.

For long moments I don’t speak. If I don’t speak, this nightmare will end. I will wake in Baghdad, or Beit Zujaaj. But I don’t wake.

She speaks again, and I cover my ears, though the sound is beauty itself.

The words you hear come not from my mouth, and you do not hear them with your ears. I ask you to listen with your mind and your heart. We will die, my husband and I, if you will not lend us your skill. Have you, learned one, never needed to be something other that what you are?

Cinnamon scent and the sound of an oasis wind come to me.

2. Create intriguing, complex characters

Readers want characters with whom they can sympathize (Harry Potter) or revile (Tywin Lannister) – or both. They want to get to know the characters and learn more about their experiences in the story.

In the following excerpt from “The Children of the Shark God,” Peter S. Beagle introduces us to the protagonist quickly, but in a way that makes us care about what happens to her.

Mirali’s parents were already aging when she was born, and had long since given up the hope of ever having a child — indeed, her name meant “the long-desired one.” Her father had been crippled when the mast of his boat snapped during a storm and crushed his leg, falling on him, and if it had not been for their daughter the old couple’s lives would have been hard indeed. Mirali could not go out with the fishing fleet herself, of course — as she greatly wished to do, having loved the sea from her earliest memory — but she did every kind of work for any number of island families, whether cleaning houses, marketing, minding young children, or even assisting the midwife when a birthing was difficult or there were simply too many babies coming at the same time. She was equally known as a seamstress, and also as a cook for special feasts; nor was there anyone who could mend a pandanus-leaf thatching as quickly as she, though this is generally man’s work. No drop of rain ever penetrated any pandanus roof that came under Mirali’s hands.

Nor did she complain of her labors, for she was very proud of being able to care for her mother and father as a son would have done. Because of this, she was much admired and respected in the village, and young men came courting just as though she were a great beauty. Which she was not, being small and somewhat square-made, with straight brows — considered unlucky by most — and hips that gave no promise of a large family. But she had kind eyes, deep-set under those regrettable brows, and hair as black and thick as that of any woman on the island. Many, indeed, envied her; but of that Mirali knew nothing. She had no time for envy herself, nor for young men, either.

As authors, we must give readers insight into what makes our protagonists tick. What motivates them? What are their aspirations? In this passage, we learn that Mirali, while not conventionally beautiful, is a kind soul who works hard for her parents and is appreciated by her community. And the key? We quickly start to become invested in what happens to her.

3. Evoke strong emotions

In this scene from “Frost Child” by Gillian Philip, it takes the reader a moment to realize what the child witch is feeding her newly-tamed water horse — and that moment allows the strong emotion of horror to set in.

“He’s very beautiful,” I smiled. “Make sure he’s fully tame before you bring him near the dun.”

“Of course I will. Thank you, Griogair!” She bent her head to the kelpie again, crooning, and reached for her pouch, drawing out a small chunk of meat. The creature shifted its head to take it delicately from her hand, gulping it down before taking her second offering. She stroked it as she fed it, caressing its cheekbone, its neck, its gills.

I don’t know why the first shiver of cold certainty rippled across my skin; perhaps it was her contentment, the utter obliteration of her grief; perhaps it was the realisation that she and her little bow had graduated to bigger game. The chunks of flesh she fed it were torn from something far larger than a pigeon, and as the kelpie nickered, peeling back its upper lip to sniff for more treats, I saw tiny threads of woven fabric caught on its canine teeth.

By revealing a previously undetected detail that helps readers understand the implications, the author causes them to wince and recoil — and wonder what happens next. Of course, we have many emotion-evoking arrows in our writing quivers — humor, love, determination, anger, and so on. These strong emotions keep the reader engrossed in the story and curious about the characters’ futures.

4. Use rich character voice

The voice chosen by the author has a profound impact in how readers interpret the story and view the characters. In the following excerpt from “The Adventures of Lightning Merriemouse-Jones” by Nancy and Belle Holder, the voice and sentence length quickly convey the time period and lighter tone of this comic horror story.

To begin at the beginning:

That would be instructive, but rather dull; and so we will tell you, Gentle Reader, that the intrepid Miss Merriemouse-Jones was born in 1880, a wee pup to parents who had no idea that she was destined for greatness. Protective and loving, they encouraged her to find her happiness in the environs of home — running the squeaky wheel in the nursery cage, gnawing upon whatever might sharpen her pearlescent teeth, and wrinkling her tiny pink nose most adorably when vexed.

During her girlhood, Lightning was seldom vexed. She lived agreeably in her parents’ well-appointed and fashionable abode, a hole in the wall located in the chamber of the human daughter of the house, one Maria Louisa Summerfield, whose mother was a tempestuous Spanish painter of some repute, and whose father owned a bank.

The longer sentences, combined with the choice of words like “environs,” “pearlescent,” “vexed,” “abode,” and “repute,” place the reader in a Victorian setting even without the reference to 1880. The narrator’s voice also clearly sets a tone of felicity and humor.

Just as the narrator has a distinct voice, characters should have their own unique voices to help readers distinguish one from another and to convey aspects of their personalities. Voice is a terrific tool to help readers get to know and appreciate your characters.

5. Pull the reader into the action

Of course, interesting characters and engaging dialog are important, but writing gripping action scenes is a skill all its own. Jim Butcher has mastered this skill, as shown in this excerpt from “Even Hand”:

The fomor’s creatures exploded into the hallway on a storm of frenzied roars. I couldn’t make out many details. They seemed to have been put together on the chassis of a gorilla. Their heads were squashed, ugly-looking things, with wide-gaping mouths full of shark-like teeth. The sounds they made were deep, with a frenzied edge of madness, and they piled into the corridor in a wave of massive muscle.

“Steady,” I murmured.

The creatures lurched as they moved, like cheap toys that had not been assembled properly, but they were fast, for all of that. More and more of them flooded into the hallway, and their charge was gaining mass and momentum.

“Steady,” I murmured.

Hendricks grunted. There were no words in it, but he meant, I know.

The wave of fomorian beings got close enough that I could see the patches of mold clumping their fur, and tendrils of mildew growing upon their exposed skin.

“Fire,” I said.

Hendricks and I opened up.

The new military AA-12 automatic shotguns are not the hunting weapons I first handled in my patriotically delusional youth. They are fully automatic weapons with large circular drums that rather resembled the old Tommy guns made iconic by my business predecessors in Chicago.

One pulls the trigger and shell after shell slams through the weapon. A steel target hit by bursts from an AA-12 very rapidly comes to resemble a screen door.

And we had two of them.

The slaughter was indescribable. It swept like a great broom down that hallway, tearing and shredding flesh, splattering blood on the walls and painting them most of the way to the ceiling. Behind me, Gard stood ready with a heavy-caliber big-game rifle, calmly gunning down any creature that seemed to be reluctant to die before it could reach our defensive point. We piled the bodies so deep that the corpses formed a barrier to our weapons.

A well-written action scene thrusts the reader smack into the middle of the story. It’s another way to evoke emotion and empathy for characters.

Though the protagonist in this story is actually a crime lord — not a character many of us would normally root for — you’re on his side, aren’t you? The writer’s skillful action writing has you imagining yourself behind the defensive barrier, wielding a shotgun, and praying the torrent of lead will prevent the demonic onslaught from reaching you.

Readers want to be taken on a journey to another place and time, with characters they care about and whose company they enjoy. Help your readers feel like they have a stake in your story’s outcome by using these writing techniques to bring your characters and settings to life.


If you enjoyed these excerpts, find the full stories in the new dark fantasy anthology “Beyond the Pale”

//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=as_ss_li_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=theindautadv-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=0989448738&asins=0989448738&linkId=0c8c4de05d8e7d8530938ce1b2c273e5&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true


As a writer, which books or authors do you read specifically to learn from their techniques and writing skills?

Book Cover Design

Source: http://thewritelife.com/5-powerful-writing-techniques/

Images:  (c) Can Stock Photo