So you can read my books

Tuesday, March 6, 2012



We writers have to wrestle with that demon daily.

Developing writing skills bolsters your confidence that you are, indeed,

a writer

Growing in your skill in establishing atmosphere through your descriptions

is one weapon to use against that wily demon, insecurity.

Look around you.

Hearts have grown cold,

ears dull,

minds impatient.

And this affects you as a writer just how?

Each page of your novel could be the reader's last ...

unless ...

unless you make your novel alive and alluring.

People pick up a book in a store, thumb through it, and read a page at random.

That is your only shot at snaring him/her into buying what cost you years of sweat and effort.

Make each page count. Make each paragraph breathe. Make each moment live in the mind of the reader.

Each of the senses should be touched by your words. And one of the ways you do that is to paint your locale with such brushstrokes of prose, the reader "sees" and "feels" and "smells" the unique flavors of your locale.

New Orleans :

Hollow-eyed mothers hugging hungry children within a block of spacious mansions, framed by lush bushes and gleaming iron lacework fences.

Decaying public schools slowly devolving into raucous social jungles and tribal warfare over gang colors and drug territory.

A hardened, jaded police department that in some seasons can be scarier than the city's criminals. Official corruption at every level. Murder rates ever soaring. And hot, steamy air you can wear 7 months out of the year.

And it is a wonderful place to live :

The morning mists parting as the St. Charles streetcar happily clatters through the shimmering fog under the avenue's great oak trees.

The second-line parade of trumpet blowers high-stepping intricate steps in honor of some event or another.

The mellow, haunting notes of Ellis Marsalis playing piano as you sit at Snug Harbor, sipping a drink light on alcohol, heavy on taste.

You must paint your reader into your locale with words that touch the taste buds, stroke their cheeks, and tug on their heartstrings.

Only then, with the setting so real that they hear the sound of throaty laughter and fine jazz, will the Stetson wearing, doomed hero, Samuel McCord, feel like an actual person to them.

Remember :

Each city whispers in its own voice. Your city. My city.

You know streets that whisper to stay away at night.

You know what scandal has stained some avenue beyond repair. You know what person's name is spoken in hushed tones long after he or she has died and been buried in your city.

Each city has its own personality. Like a human's, it changes with trauma, years of abuse, and moments of historic impact.

Lifting the veil from the distinctive features of the setting of your novel makes your whole narrative come alive for your reader.

But how do you do that verbal sleight of hand?

Some obvious to tourists. Some that you have to ferret out by research in the library, on the internet, or by listening to a local visitor to your setting.

How does your hero/heroine feel about those details? How have they affected the protagonist and those important to him or her?

Weave those details and emotions into a rich tapestry of irony and longing.

What shadowed corner of your setting is especially dangerous or emotion-laden to your central characters? Why?

Paint a passage where that tapestry flutters in the shadows, not quite completely seen but more evocative because of that.

What era is it in your setting? Has your protagonist lived through more than one era of time in it?

How has the passing seasons shaped his/her mind, opinions, and outlook for the present? For the future? How does your protagonist view his and the setting's past?

Master these points, and your novel will live for your reader.


  1. Insecurity we have, inspiration we need.

    Nice post - thank you Roland!

  2. Guess I need to go hang out in my city of Ktren some more. Although I could say it doesn't breath because it is choking on dusty sand.

  3. This almost felt like beatnik poetry to me. Feelin' it, my brother. (=

  4. I agree with Jo! All of your posts are like poetry!

  5. This is a truly inspiring post, hope I can incorporate these points someday.

  6. Congrats on your placing in the challenge!

  7. Great descriptions and advice. "Make every sentence, every word count." That is so true. I've done that, flip through the book, read a random page and make a decision.

  8. Wonderful encouragement! Love the "Make every sentence, every word count" as well. It's one reason I enjoy writing flash fiction because it gives a writer so much practice on making every sentence and word count.

  9. Alive and alluring, I love that. Yes, that's exactly what we need to do! And wow Roland, where do you find these amazing pictures?!

  10. I have been writing my entire life and I am still the most insecure writer I know. Thanks for all the wise suggestions Roland.

  11. "Each page of your novel could be the reader's last" <-- now that's a scary thought! I think your most important message here is: make each page count. Definitely!

  12. Sir,

    You are truly a master of our language. This post resonates with heart and soul. Your examples are flawless, eloquent, and visual.

    Your posts are always a source of such positive inspiration for writers at EVERY level.

  13. Thanks, E.D.
    I think all writers wrestle with insecurity. But the better we master our writing skills, hopefully, the less the struggle will hurt!

    Alex :
    Sometimes the desert seems alive at night, the winds howling like lost souls, the awakening insects droning oddly like tiny demons. Brrr. You were probably wise to spend little time there!! LOL.

    Jo :
    It is the Celtic and Lakota storyteller in me! :-) Thanks so much for liking my prose!

    Kyra :
    Your words make my weary morning so much easier to bear.

    Rek :
    I pray your writing comes easier and easier to you!

    Mark :
    I hadn't realized I had placed in the challenge. Thanks for letting me know. The blood center is draining all my time and strength these days!

    Mary :
    That advise came to me as I flipped to a random page in a book I was considering, then placed it down. Whoa, somebody was going to do that to me unless I made each page count. Brrrr.

    Cherie :
    Like you, I have noticed that flash fiction is a good training ground to make each word count for three!!

    Heather :
    Thanks for the gracious words on my post. That picture is by Leonora Roy that she did for my new cover for FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE. Great, isn't it?

    The Desert Rocks :
    Love your new avatar. Like you, I have been writing all my life, and insecurity has been a constant travelling companion!!

    Rachel :
    So far I'm really enjoying your THE GUARDIAN. I'm sure I will enjoy the rest just as much. May your sales be high!!

    Thank you, Michael :
    I've been concerned for you what with all the demands lately on your energy and strength. Pace yourself!! Roland

  14. Great post, awesome words, and incredible imagery! Whatever it is you have, don't lose it! You've got it!

  15. Thanks, Jack!
    Your words mean a lot to me on this weary night being a blood courier!

  16. Great advice, and wonderful imagery! It takes skill to balance description with action, I think.