Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Don't say it was delightful: make us say delightful when we've read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, "Please, will you do the job for me?" ~ C.S. Lewis

I just returned from speaking at the Ozarks Creative Writers Conference. My presentation was on writing memoirs in the Creative Nonfiction Style of writing. In other words, using fiction techniques to tell the truth. One of the fiction techniques is, of course, description. As C. S. Lewis stated, it is so easy to rely on adjectives instead of letting our minds go and find more creative ways of experiencing the world around us. 
My suggestion to the group was to use a different sense to describe another. For instance, what does a Blue Jay's call look like? What does the color blue feel like? This can be fun to do. I had one lady tell me after she had heard me speak she wrote a poem about what a far-away train whistle tasted like. To her is was like eating lemons with salt. 
Ever heard of purple prose? I'm sure you have. It is when we get too lyrical in our description. Problem is, I LOVE my purple prose. Do you? Well, I have great news. We no longer have to delete it or, as I do, put it in a folder titled Purple Prose Too Great To Delete. Dr. Tom Eaton who also spoke at the conference suggested while it isn't good to be too lyrical in our descriptions, our characters can speak it. Brilliant! Purple prose in dialogue! 
Have some fun with this. Make a list of the five senses and mix them up. When you are trying to describe something, don't use the obvious sense. You may or may not use what you come up with and some of the descriptions might be ridiculous, and yet, you will find your skills expanded. 
Oh, did you wonder what a Blue Jay's call looks like to me? Shattered glass. 

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  1. Personally, I think purple prose is nice, if it's not overwrought. Of course, it depends on the genre you're writing. Or maybe it doesn't. Have you read Dean Koontz? Thriller/suspense, but his descriptions... So beautiful. So purple.

  2. I'm with you Crystal! I love purple! And I think it does work with thrillers/suspense. It shows the deep side of the protagonist, or even the antagonist. We are told to give one thing to like in the bad guy. This is why I rejoiced when Tom suggested putting it in dialogue.

  3. Wise words by C.S. Lewis. I tell people he is my Christian mentor with his profound words.

  4. I'm writing a memoir right now with a couple, and the husband asked me to write it with lots of description. Then he said that when this book is done he wants me to write another, a fictional account... hmm...