So you can read my books

Wednesday, December 5, 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. I love descriptive prose, but I've seen it frowned upon. Give me this style any day. D

  2. Denise:
    Even Hemingway had a way with descriptive prose. Like you, I prefer this style rather than reading a "telegram" style novel! :-)

  3. You've come a long way in the writing world my friend. Your novels in exotic settings are selling, you're getting picked up by independent publishers; you're making your mark in the publishing world, same as Hemingway and the other greats.

    Descriptive prose has its audience. I like it, and try to write it.


  4. I'm also a fan of evocative descriptions, and your post demonstrated that very well! I completely agree that every page should have your all in it. Every sentence should be written with love and earnest :)

  5. Roland you certainly have captured my imagination and painted the reality of New Orleans in my head with your elegant descriptions. Beautiful.

  6. Roland,

    As always, you have a beautiful way with words.

    Still on my blogging hiatus.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  7. That ghost elevator video was SO funny! And so mean. That would be perfect in New Orleans ha ha.

    I've been to NOLA once, for a psychology convention, in AUGUST. So yeah, I know all about the "hot air you wear". Unfortunately this was a year after Katrina so I didn't get to see your city in all its glory, but your gorgeously lush descriptions definitely make me feel like I'm there.

    I think you're an excellent writer and I wish more readers knew about your novels.

  8. Donna:
    Thanks but Hemingway just flicked ashes from his ghost cigar at me. :-) My sales are meager even with offering signed books by King and Bradbury. Still, it is nice to have my stories picked up by two anthologies. And I have helped children at Christmas with one. Your stories also have found spotlights. That makes me happy.

    One paragraph that a browsing reader scans may be all the chance we get at snaring a new reader.

    Now, if I can catch the imagination of Harper Collins Voyager! Yes, sigh, I am one of the millions who submitted to them, too. Thank you for putting END OF DAYS and BRING ME THE HEAD OF McCORD in your sidebar. It was truly gracious of you to do that.

    I've missed you. Enjoy your blogging hiatus as much as reality will allow you.

    Yes, that video was funny, though mean. I am not usually a fan of pranks as they reinforce the passive-aggressive tendencies in us. Luckily, none of those poor people had a heart attack!

    Ouch. You traveled to New Orleans for the 1st time in AUGUST. Air you can wear for sure! Citizens of N.O. are hardy and will eventually recover from Katrina. The American government got a black eye with their lack of effective response to Katrina in the eyes of Europe.

    Thank you for the kind words about my writing. I wish us both higher sales!

  9. Excellent points! Our insecurities should drive us to become more impassioned with our work, instead of to shrink back in a corner and cower in fear and self-loathing. Rise up to the challenge and become something more!

  10. Very good point Roland, Our prose has to move and touch our readers by putting them in the moment. We also have to move them forward without getting lost in that moment, sometimes a difficult task :)

  11. Working on details!! Immersion. Doing my best.

  12. Ah, descriptive prose. You do this well, my friend. So well. I'm so happy to hear you submitted to H.C.V. Happy IWSG post day. :)

  13. Steven:
    You said it most eloquently!

    Yes, sort of like the Yin Yang of good prose.

    Our best is all we can ask of ourselves and others, right?

    Cross your fingers for me, all right?