In my last post, I discussed how to use the five senses to make your story world more believable—even if you’re writing about real-live gods and the dead coming back to life like author Neil Gaiman in American Gods. But what about the sixth sense of intuition? How can you use what is unseen, what is beyond the five physical senses to enrich to your story?
Contrary to what you might think, your character doesn’t have to be a psychic or a mind reader. You can activate your readers’ sixth sense by using foreshadowing or details that set the mood of a scene. Again, it comes down to using telling details based on the other five senses. Take a look at this passage from “American Gods.” What does it evoke in you as a reader? Read more
Sometimes, I don’t like to read another author’s work while I’m writing, other times I do. Since I began writing my current manuscript, I’ve started and stopped several books. But last week I picked up Neil Gaiman’s American Godsand haven’t been able to put it down. I find myself asking, “How does he do it?”
American Gods is a wildly creative and beautiful story. What I love most is how the story is so otherworldly—people coming back from the dead, gods walking around among us—yet feels so absolutely real as if it were playing out in front of me. Read more
Over the years, I’d trained myself to be an observer of life’s details and to use those concrete details in my writing. (I do have an MFA in people watching). But I’d never done the opposite—never thought about turning details into abstractions as Ayn Rand suggests we do in her book The Art of Fiction.
I’m sure at some unconscious level, the details and abstractions ran parallel lives in my mind but I wasn’t consciously aware of them. I never thought, “What do the moles on my mother’s neck represent?”
While on vacation earlier this year, I sat on a white sand beach on the island of Kauai and thought about Rand’s advice. She suggests we practice seeing the abstractions within the concrete details in order to make our minds supple and easily able to notice both the abstractions or premises in our work and how to show them through details. Read more
I didn’t discover I was a writer until college when I fell in love with poetry. Fortunately for me, my first poetry professor was big on concrete. No, he didn’t have a weekend job laying sidewalks or foundations. But he did pound it into us that our effusive abstractions needed to be transformed into concrete images.
Some of my first poems were pure mush and raw emotion. When I blathered on about feeling lonely in a foreign country, he asked, “What color is lonely? What does lonely smell like? Was there a specific place or location or city where you felt the most lonely?” He explained that through the right details I could evoke those feelings in my reader.
I can still remember the rush of satisfaction when I finally captured the essence of that poem into specifics. Read more