Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Violence

Every day we interact with objects, places and sensations that affect the way we think and feel. This can be used to the writer's advantage by planting symbols in the reader's path to reinforce a specific message, feeling or idea.

Look at the setting and the character's state of mind, and then think about what you want the reader to see. Is there a descriptive symbol or two that works naturally within the scene to help foreshadow an event or theme, or create insight into the character's emotional plight?

In Nature:

Pack hunting
Fangs & claws
A snake's hiss or the rattle of its tail
Blood and feathers on grass
Torn up earth
Uprooted trees
Animal cries of pain or terror
Animals fighting over territory or dominance
The shriek of a bird of prey
A snarl or growl in the shadows
The tide during a storm
Tidal wave/Tsunami
Tropical Storms
Animals fending off predators to protect young
A ransacked nest with broken or missing eggs
Claw marks and upturned earth around a burrow

In Society:

Violent crimes (murder, home invasion, rape, etc)
Escalating verbal abuse
Broken windows & locks
Kicked in doors
Car accidents
Physical/mental/emotional abuse
Hate crimes
Guns, knives, brass knuckles & other weapons
Sporting event fights (hockey tussles, boxing, street fighters, cage matches, etc)
Cruelty to animals
Slaughter houses
Violent video games, movies
Serial Killers
Hit men, assassins, loan shark 'muscle'
Modern Pirates, Sex Slavers, Human Trafficking
Fistfights, shoving, bullying
Black eyes, bruises, split lips

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Violence. Some are more powerful than others. A slaughterhouse is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a single uprooted tree may not foreshadow Violence on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.

Setting Thesaurus Entry: Trailer

This post has been generously written by Linda Clare, author of the The Fence My Father Built (Abingdon Press, 2009).

Linda grew up in Arizona, where trailers are about as plentiful as cactus. As such, we're proud to host her as the resident expert.

In The Fence My Father Built, when legally separated Muri Pond, a librarian, hauls her kids, teenage Nova and eleven year-old Truman, out to the tiny town of Murkee, Oregon, where her father, Joe Pond lived and died, she’s confronted by a neighbor’s harassment over water rights and Joe’s legacy: a fence made from old oven doors.

The fence and accompanying house trailer horrify rebellious Nova, who runs away to the drug-infested streets of Seattle. Muri searches for her daughter and for something to believe in, all the while trying to save her inheritance from the conniving neighbor who calls her dad Chief Joseph. Along with Joe’s sister, Aunt Lutie, and the Red Rock Tabernacle Ladies, Muri must rediscover the faith her alcoholic dad never abandoned in order to reclaim her own spiritual path.

Homemade wooden steps leading up to the door; sleek silver tube on wheels (Airstream); concrete block holding up the trailer hitch; corrugated aluminum skirting, concrete blocks where the wheels used to be; trailer hitch; clubhouse with laundry room and a pool;  screen doors; senior citizens wearing visors, walking little dogs; white siding with avocado green trim, rust stains from rain streaking the trailer’s siding, postage stamp-sized yards with lined with crushed red lava rocks or white quartz; a sea of trailers dotting sand dunes; Added-on porches with fiberglass roofs, carpeted with green Astroturf, festooned with wind chimes and whirl-i-gigs; “overcab” camper on blocks in neighbor’s backyard; luxury fifth wheel with pull-out porch and satellite antenna; KOA campground with concrete pads and electrical outlets; trailer parks with double and triple-wides that don’t look like trailers; muddy paths between trailers; aluminum awnings over the windows; tiny “tear drop” trailers that fold into tent trailers that sleep six; hibachi sitting outside the door.

Low popcorn ceilings; walls of thin grooved dark wood paneling, table that folds against the wall, hallways so narrow you have to turn sideways to pass each other; bed that takes up the entire room; extra bunk over the living room sofa; tiny bathroom, toilet that doesn’t really flush; bathtub so small you’d have to sit with your knees bent; propane stove with two burners and no oven; half a refrigerator; rubber bands on the paper towel roll; floor moves if you jump up and down; green shag carpeting from the 1970s; breakfast nook with cracking vinyl seats that convert to a bed; built-in compartments for food, clothing and linens; built-in TV sets, lamps and other electronics; matching designer furniture of better quality than found in many regular homes; shaking walls when the washer spins, steam billowing from the dryer vent.

Creaking of the floor when you walk; hearing the neighbors whether you want to or not; Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, Yorkies and other small dogs barking incessantly; country-western radio stations; trucks grinding into gear; laughter of old men from the pool table room; laughter of older women around the bridge table; televisions blaring; children’s laughter; moms calling their children home; guitars strumming; lawn mowers; leaf blowers; tinkling of windchimes; banging screen doors; crunch of tires on gravel drives.

Cookies baking, casserole dishes; Old Spice on men at the clubhouse; Emeraude perfume on women at the clubhouse; roses blooming in June; cigarette smoke; smells of fried chicken, burgers or other meats; barbeque lighter fluid; motor oil and dirt; fresh-mown grass; moldy leaves; wood smoke from a campfire; mildewy smell after winter.

Hot dogs cooked over coals; eating s’mores; taste of rain in the air.

Bumpy feel of corrugated aluminum siding; hard roundness of a trailer hitch; rough scratch of unfinished wooden railings; cool smoothness of vinyl cushions; velvety feel of plush furniture; slick feel of slippery wooden steps after a rain; icy smoothness of icicles hanging from the roof; shag carpet on bare feet; sticky marshmallows and chocolate from s’mores; feel of gritty sand in the carpet.

Helpful hints:

--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood. (From The Fence My Father Built)
Example 1:
I followed Aunt Lutie across the living room to the kitchen area. It was a good five foot walk.

Example 2:
The broken down, green and white single-wide mobile home, with room additions sticking out in all directions, looked more like a child’s homemade fort than a place to live.

--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile)
The trailer’s tiny kitchen looked like it had been built for elves.

Example 2: (Metaphor)
The trailer park was a battlefield surrounded by corpses of junked out cars, broken bicycles and blowing trash.

Good Things In 3 WINNERS!

First up, thanks so much for celebrating our 3rd anniversary with us! It's been a great three years, and we're looking forward to many more. Welcome new followers, too! I hope you find the content here helpful to your writing, and if you ever have any suggestions for entries or have special descriptive challenges you'd like us to address, we want to hear from you!

Okay, okay, I know--GET TO THE GOODS, ACKERMAN!

Winners of the 1st Chapter critique (x 2):

Laura Pauling (Blog)
Juliette Wade (Twitter)
Patricia Puddle (Facebook)

Winners of the 1st Page critique (x 2):

Ali (Blog)
RubyRed0 (Twitter)
F. Roberta Walker (Facebook)


Kathan Lewis (entered by Dayner)
Rachel Johns (entered by Beck Nicholas)
Christina Lee (entered by Stina Lindenblatt)

All winners can contact me for further instructions via email on format and timeline for critiques. Mystery Winners will be contacted by us, but if you know them, give them a virtual high five & let them know to watch their blogs and inboxes!

Congrats to all the winners, and cheers to Dayner, Beck & Stina for winning one of your Favorite People a mystery prize!

We loved hearing who has helped shape you as a writer, and each one of you is a star in our book.Thanks as always for all the well wishes, comments, links and visits. It's an honor to walk this writer's road with you!

Good Things In 3 Giveaway Closed

Wow, everyone! Nice to see all these Good Things in 3 shout outs to people who helped you on your writing journey. The window for entry is now closed, and winners will be announced tomorrow!

Setting Thesaurus Entry: Lake


Rocky shoreline, gravel, water lapping the shore, skimmers, minnows scuttling between the rocks, ducks, geese (plucking grass from the lush slope, swimming in the reeds, preening, herding babies) seagulls searching for garbage left behind on the beach or swooping along the sky, mosquitoes, flies, bees, dragonflies, picnic tables, benches, blankets spread out on the slope for families or friends to lay in the sun and socialize, picnic baskets, dock, boat launch, Young kids playing at the water's edge, older kids in deeper, swimming, splashing, fishermen at the dock dropping lines, boats & jet skis racing back and forth in the deep water, colorful canoes, fishing boats and rowboats dotting the water, floating dock filled with teenagers jumping in and out of the water or sunning on the wooden planks, reeds, grass, fish, lake scum at the shoreline, broken glass or bottles on the shore or in the shallows, dead birds, tow line bits, coils of broken fishing line, trash and dead fish caught in the current or washed ashore, beer cans left behind in the grass, trash cans, public washroom, trees surrounding the lake, houses with private docks along the water's edge, trails leading down to the water, deer drinking at the water's edge, flowers, driftwood, tree stump 'dead heads' sticking up in the water, duckweed, parking lot, some lakes will also have camp grounds adjoined to them


The roar of on board motors, a patterned 'whump, whump, whump' as a speedboat goes over it's own wake and hits the waves, music from portable players, talking/laughing or visitors eating or spending the day at the lake, the gentle lap of water hitting the shoreline, the buzz of winged insects, the wind sifting through the leaves, splashes, bird calls, wings flapping, trucks at the boat launch driving their boat trailers into the water to pick up or drop off boats, the sputtering of a boat motor starting up, the wet slide of an oar slipping through the water, the creak of trees on a quiet day, feet crunching along a graveled shoreline, plunking down a folding chair, rustle of food wrappers, the hiss of a beer or pop can opening, crickets, frogs croaking, at night, the crackle of a lakeside bonfire


The peaty smell of algae, fresh air, food cooking on portable grills, grass, wet earth, water, gasoline fumes from boats, sunscreen, snacks like Doritos or popcorn with strong odors, flowers, seaweed or rotten vegetation at the edge


Food cooked off a portable grill (burgers, hot dogs, chicken, ribs) potato salad, chips, pop, coleslaw, take out (like a bucket of KFC or McDonald's), beer, sandwiches bought or made at home, water, gum, mints


The sharp cold gravel on bare feet, the cold fluidity of water on shin, shivers, grass sliding past bare ankles, pulling or tugging a bathing suit into place, water seeping through shoes or sandals, sand caught in shoes and other places, sand gritty on skin, the grease of sunscreen, the warmth of sun on skin, water droplets landing on warm skin, wading through the shallows, tingling skin where cold water touches, jumping as something touches a leg in the water (seaweed or fish), scraping back windblown hair with fingers, adjusting sunglasses, digging fingers into an ice chest for a bottle of water, leaning back against a warm towel or blanket, wrapping a dry towel over your wet body, yanking off an outer layer of clothes to go swimming or pulling on an outer layer after swimming and struggling with friction between wet skin & suit and dry clothes, walking along a boardwalk, leaning against a wooden railing, sitting on the pier and swinging legs, reclining in a boat, pulling an oar in a canoe, laying the oar across the lap to enjoy the silence and beauty of a deserted inlet

Helpful hints:

--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1:

Moonlight flickered against the water as I shivered in the shallows, cold radiating up through my feet. Everyone else had already jumped in and were busy splashing and dunking, filling the air with shrieks. I wrapped my arms around my suit, thinking about all the things waiting in the deeper water--broken glass to cut my feet, rocks and slimy algae to slip on. My heartbeat sped up. What if a fish brushed against my legs in the dark?

Example 2:

Donna leaned forward on the blanket and curled her arms around her knees. Sunlight massaged warmth into her back and she closed her eyes, letting go of all the stress from the work week--a yelling boss, reports piling up on her desk, missed deadlines. Instead she filled herself with the smell of the fresh air, the sound of the water gently slapping against the shore and feathery slide of the wind blowing her hair across her bare shoulders. Bliss.

--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile)

Fog curled along the shoreline like a giant's final exhale.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

A net of slimy weeds snagged my legs, keeping me from the water's surface.

Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Bondage/Enslavement

Every day we interact with objects, places and sensations that affect the way we think and feel. This can be used to the writer's advantage by planting symbols in the reader's path to reinforce a specific message, feeling or idea.

Look at the setting and the character's state of mind, and then think about what you want the reader to see. Is there a descriptive symbol or two that works naturally within the scene to help foreshadow an event or theme, or create insight into the character's emotional plight?

In Nature:
Spider's web
A strangler fig
Boa constrictor
Mud holes
Venus fly trap/carnivorous plants

In Society:
Animal traps
A whip
Slave ships
Harem girls
Domestic abuse
Mental disorders
Mental institutions

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with bondage. Some are more powerful than others. A set of heavy shackles is a strong
symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. Mental illness, on the other hand, may not foreshadow bondage on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.

Good Things in 3's GIVEAWAY

Lately, Becca and I have been rather obsessed with the number 3. Just over a week ago, we hit 1/3 of a million hits (333,333). Our follower count left behind the 1300's and entered the 1400's. And today, it's our 3rd blogging anniversary. Yep, we've been at this for 3 fun, fast-paced years!

These numbers would not be possible without the excellent support we've had from people like you. So, we figured the best way to celebrate was to turn our obsession over to our readers and host a Good Things in 3's GIVEAWAY!


3-1st chapter critique x 2 (Becca & I both crit your work!)
3-1st page critique x 2 (Becca & I both crit your work!)
3-MYSTERY prizes (maybe books, maybe gift cards, maybe something else! But it will be cool!)

How to WIN:

Becca and I will be giving away prizes through 3 channels: BLOG COMMENTS, TWITTER & our FACEBOOK PAGE. And in the spirit of paying it forward, you can win a prize not just for yourself, but also for someone else--someone who has helped you get to where you are today!


On Twitter: TWEET the names of 3 people who have really helped you on your writer's journey (but not us!) Use the #goodthingsin3 hashtag so we can find you. Give them a shout out, link to them in some way if you like. This is your chance to say a big thank you to them and give them some recognition for all they've done for you.

On the Blog: Follow us and post in the comments your links to 3 people who have really contributed to your growth as a writer. There are so many blogs out there that are just chock full of fabulous advice and encouragement! This is your chance to tip your hat to them and send traffic their way!

On Facebook: This one's super easy...just join us. All members of The Bookshelf Muse In Print will be entered in the draw!

Enter as much as you like, where you like! In one week, we'll total all the entries and pick the winners by draw. All #goodthingsin3 mentions (blog comments & twitter) will be put in for one of the mystery prizes.

All blog mentions, tweets, etc about the giveaway are appreciated but not mandatory to enter. :) Have fun with this! And if you really want to get into the spirit of paying it forward, why not dedicate your own blog post to the people who have helped you get to where you are? We'd love to hear why they are one of your Good Things in 3's picks!

Creating Unforgettable Settings, Part 4

So far in this series, we've touched on choosing the right setting, describing the setting, and maximizing the setting through various figures of speech and techniques. But what if the world you want to write about doesn't exist…yet? Then you've got some


to do. There are dozens of sub-topics I could address when it comes to World Building, but I’m going to focus on two: rules and elements.

Rules: the principles under which every aspect of your world operates

Know the Rules
Every world has rules. Consider Earth: water flows downhill; a complete revolution takes 24 hours, resulting in one day and night; people communicate primarily through speech, through a variety of different languages. If you’re going to create a world that readers will buy into, you have to know how everything works: the physical planet, climate, cultures, politics, religion, rules of magic, diet, social structure. I shared this link once before, but I’ve found Patricia Wrede’s World Builder Questions to be a great resource for world building. From this site, I created a 23-page questionnaire that I use when planning. Sounds like overkill, but thorough planning is key. The more you know about your world from the start, the more believable it will be to the reader.

Lay the Foundation Early
Every world is different. If they were the same as Earth, we wouldn’t have to create something new. Different is good, but it can also be confusing, so make sure you lay the foundation early for those potentially baffling parts. Do it gradually—a bit here, a little more there, leaving a manageable trail of crumbs for your reader to follow. Foundation-laying is also important when it comes to any rule-breakers in your story: the one member of the aerial community who can’t fly; the boy with healing powers; a group of telepaths. If half the story goes by before the reader learns that the rules don’t apply to someone, they’re going to cry, “Bull Crap!” (as I often do when watching movies. My husband loves this). Leave a couple of clues early on to show there’s something different about that character. That way, when the secret’s revealed, your Huh? moment will be turned into a satisfying Ahhhhhhh.

Elements: any piece of your world that needs to be defined during planning: transport devices, timepieces, eating utensils, living spaces, waste management, power sources, etc.

Make Fantastical Elements Shine
Remember that this is a Brand New World, and you can do anything, anything, with it. If there’s nothing unique about it, it might as well be Earth, right? What is it about your world that makes it fabulous? A set of districts ruled by a Capitol that forces the children to kill each other? Dragons that imprint with humans to create a lifelong telepathic bond? Earth, as viewed by a community of rabbits? There must be a reason that you chose to set your story in a place that doesn’t already exist. Whatever that reason, make it the focal point of your setting. Showcase it so your readers come to see your world as a place like no other—one they wish they could visit in person.

Value Existing Elements
On the flip-side, if you have too many way-cool elements, a couple of things are going to happen: 1) you’ll have trouble explaining everything clearly enough so the reader can understand, and 2) your reader will tire of trying to wrap their brains around all the newness and will walk away from your story. So don’t reinvent the wheel—or the clock, matchbooks, democracy, the barter system, or anything else that will fit into your world just as it is. In the name of proportion, keep the simple, everyday things simple so your fantastical elements can shine.

So that’s it. All my worldly knowledge on unforgettable settings. This series has provided a lot of information that you've hopefully found useful, but it can mostly be summed up in three words: believability, consistency, and maximization. If you focus on those three things, you pretty much can’t go wrong.

Biography of an Emotion Thesaurus

Linda Clare was kind enough to invite me over to her blog as a guest poster today. I'm still on an ice-cream kick, so I will liken Linda's blog to a nummy helping of chocolate chip mint: it's full of tasty tidbits, beautifully smooth, and every bite is satisfying.

Linda asked me to speak on the history and evolution of the Emotion Thesaurus. As usual when asked to talk about myself, I jumped at the chance. So head on over to Linda Clare's Writer's Tips--and bring a soup spoon, because you're going to want to dig into this blog.

Creating Unforgettable Settings, Part 3

Maximizing the Setting

Okay. You've picked the perfect setting for your story. You can describe it so clearly and compellingly that your readers will want to move there. Is that all there is to it? You might as well ask if I'd like plain vanilla ice cream or Ben & Jerry's Everything But The… It's a no-brainer, people. Maximize your setting to upgrade your story from vanilla to Mmmmmmm.

Set the Mood
Mood can be defined as the feeling a story evokes. Stories can be creepy (Pet Sematary), uplifting (Anne of Green Gables), tranquil (The Wind in the Willows), or any other emotion you want to put across. And the mood doesn't have to encompass an entire story; different scenes or sections within a story might make you feel different ways. Creating mood is tricky, requiring careful writing across the different elements of your story. The character's attitude and actions can reflect the mood you want to convey. Word choice will have a strong impact on how the audience feels while reading. Conflicts can propel your character toward a choice, or right into a particular mood. And then, of course, you have the setting. Want to convey a feeling of uncertainty? Make the weather unsettled—balmy one day, sleeting the next. Include things in your setting that can add to that uncertain feel: a lopsided power pole that wavers in the wind but never quite falls; a car that may or may not start; an early freeze and a citrus crop. Before you write, think about what mood you want your story or individual scenes to convey, and decide what you'll use in your setting to reinforce that feeling.

Pick a Symbol
A symbol is something that stands for something else. Symbols add depth to the story because they're things that just about everyone can relate to. They create connections between your reader and the characters because the reader gets that the howling wolf is scary to the character, or that the chuckling river gives him a feeling of tranquility. However, your symbol will only work if it's appropriate to your story. The setting is a great jumping-off point for choosing your symbol. Let's say your story contains a recurring theme of escape. What from your setting can be used to signify that? Medieval village: empty stocks. The farm: a bird flying away. Contemporary high school: the dismissal bell. Use symbols right out of your setting to add depth to your story.

Use Metaphors and Similes
Closely related to symbols, these comparisons are used on a smaller scale to compare one thing to another. You probably know the specifics: a simile uses the words like or as to compare one thing to another (her shrill voice was like a tiny hammer in my brain), while metaphors make the comparison without like or as (her voice was a tiny hammer, beating against my brain). Like symbols, these comparisons are vital to drawing the reader in. But where symbols often recur throughout a story, metaphors and similes lose their power if overused. Their vitality is also sapped if the comparison is weak. So choose wisely (said the old guy in the third Indiana Jones movie). Choose comparisons that make sense for your character, your genre, your audience, and also for your setting. Let's say you're describing a stray cat and you want to compare it to something in the scene. Historical fiction in the Old West? It was a mangy thing, more tumbleweed than cat. Contemporary? The scrawny cat strutted like a third-string quarterback who'd finally been put in the game. At the beach? It looked like the ocean had rolled him around for awhile before spitting him out on the sand. Choose comparisons that fit your setting and your descriptions will be enhanced.

Don't Forget the Weather
Weather can be a crucial piece of the picture you want to portray. The challenge here is to avoid those dreaded clichés. Here are a few tips on how to use the weather to your advantage without resorting to hackneyed writing:
  • As always, choose your details carefully. If the weather doesn't provide anything but backdrop, just give a quick overview. The blizzard was finally over. Or, I hunched my shoulders against the icy wind.
  • If the weather plays a bigger part in the story, engage in good descriptive writing techniques. But don't fall back on standard weather descriptions, many of which have been overused to the point of staleness. Instead of going into detail about the rain, which would look the same in almost any setting, describe something in your scene that's being affected by it, like the withered plants or the umbrella-less woman. This will give the weather a fresh perspective that's specific to your setting.
  • Lastly, be careful to avoid weather clichés: the rainy funeral day, the thunderclap that foreshadows impending doom. When things like this happen in real life, it's completely coincidental, so why do we keep forcing them in our writing? A rainy day can be a cozy one. The bright sun may be soothing, but the glare could cause an accident as easily as a rainstorm. Whenever possible, switch it up and make the weather in your story work for you.

Creating Unforgettable Settings, Part 2

Tip #2: Describing the Setting

Some of this has been covered in previous posts, but I just couldn't talk about good scene-setting and not mention description, 'cause what good is the perfect setting if you can't convey it to the reader? So once you've figured out the right spot for your story, here are a few tips for describing it well .

Choose details carefully. For each scene, figure out what the setting should convey. Sometimes you simply want to set the stage for the reader, and that's okay. Other times, you'll want to use the setting to show additional things: mood, characterization, the story's time period, etc. For each scene, decide on the setting's purpose, then choose the details that will describe what you want.

The knee-high stalks snatched at Nora's skirts as she tore through the wheat field. Over her panting breath, she could hear the plants whispering, "You're late, you're late." Two years she'd been waiting for this, and now she was about to miss it.
The winter air burned her lungs, but she kept running. She cleared the field, passed the lone hemlock, and raced around the side of the house to find everyone waiting in the yard.

From this description you can gather that Nora is in a rural setting, probably a farm, in the winter. Nora's also late for something and she's desperate not to miss it. The sky may be full of snow clouds, cows might be grazing in an adjoining field, the wind may be whistling through the hemlock branches, but we don't know for sure because those details aren't shared. Enough clues are given to create a picture in the reader's mind. Remember that you don't have to describe everything in sight. Just pick the details that are important, and the reader will fill in the blanks.

Engage all the senses. For the most part, we're visual creatures, and when we describe something, we use a lot of visual clues. But the reader doesn't want to stand back and look at the scene. They want to be immersed in it, to feel like they're there. To do this, include details that show how the scene looks, but also how it sounds, feels, tastes, and smells. In the above example, readers have the opportunity to not only see the field and the lone tree, they also can feel the stalks snatching at their clothes, hear the plants' rustle, taste the cold air burning in the throat. Clearly, every scene doesn't call for every sense to be represented. But if you scatter enough multi-sensory clues throughout the story, you've gone a long way toward sucking the reader in.

Use varying vehicles. When introducing a scene, it's tempting to rattle off a bunch of details in paragraph form so we can check the setting off our list and move on to more important things. But even characterization and plot don't stand alone; they're scattered in bits and pieces throughout the story, intertwined with other elements. That's how the setting needs to be worked in, too. Share it a piece at a time—through narrative, definitely—but also through dialogue, dialogue beats, internal thoughts, and action. Spreading it out is a great way to ensure that your reader doesn't skim past long paragraphs to get to what's next.

Be voice consistent and character specific. When describing the setting, remember that it's not actually you doing the describing. That job belongs to your point-of-view character. So…
·       Choose details that your character would notice.
·       Use words and phrases that your character would use, and keep sentence structure, sentence length, and style consistent. If your character talks in a quick, rabbity style but your descriptions are shown through rambling complex sentences, your reader will sense that something's off.
·       Your character's mood should greatly affect the way she sees the scene and how she describes it.
·       Different characters may describe the same scene differently, so if your story is being told from varying viewpoints, make sure the descriptions are true to each character. And, by the way, this technique is a great way to convey characterization through your descriptions.
·       As with every writing element, keep the context in mind. If the scene is fast-paced and active, there's going to be less detail because your character wouldn't stop to admire the frescoes while she's running from an axe-murderer.

Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Evil

Every day we interact with objects, places and sensations that affect the way we think and feel. This can be used to the writer's advantage by planting symbols in the reader's path to reinforce a specific message, feeling or idea.

Look at the setting and the character's state of mind, and then think about what you want the reader to see. Is there a descriptive symbol or two that works naturally within the scene to help foreshadow an event or theme, or create insight into the character's emotional plight?

** Please note the symbols listed here are either old world beliefs & superstitions or iconic symbols adopted by film and media. None are meant as slurs against any individual or group.

In Nature:

Snakes and serpents
Carnivorous plants
Hemlock/nightshade plants
Lightning strikes
Animals that kill for sport, not need
Foul weather (sea storms, etc)

In Society:

Inverted crosses
Devil worshippers
Evil spirits/presences
Evil Eye
Crimes against children
The undead
Blood rites/sacrifice
Black magic
The color black
Three sixes
Ouija boards
Nuclear mushroom cloud
Nuclear weapons

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Evil. Some are more powerful than others. Three sixes grouped together is a symbol that is immediately recognized by many, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, storm clouds on the horizon may not foreshadow evil on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.

**Also, with this entry in particular, consider the beliefs of your characters. A practitioner of Wicca would not consider witchcraft to be evil, nor necessarily would a society where blood rites are common practice. What is or is not evil will be always be in the eye of the beholder.

Creating Unforgettable Settings

As writers, we often underestimate the power of setting. Who didn't want to visit the Hundred-Acre Wood? How much of our Bilbo-love is wrapped up in Hobbiton, my precious? And whatever you might think of the Twilight series, the ho-hum town of Forks became a little more interesting because it was the perfect home for Meyer's vampires. In every genre, the right setting, well-written, is an invaluable piece of the falling-in-love-with-a-book puzzle. To explore this a bit more, I'm introducing a series on Creating Unforgettable Settings. Today's tip:

Choosing the Right Setting

In college I had a button that said Waiting for Mr. 'He'll Do'. I pinned it to my bedroom bulletin board because, despite the chuckles it gave me, I was a little embarrassed to wear it. (enter Non-Lawyer Spokesperson stating that my husband is babe-a-licious and in no way did I settle when I picked him). When it comes to writing, we jump through all kinds of hoops to draw our characters perfectly, to make sure our plotlines are flawless with no holes or inconsistencies. The setting, on the other hand, is often an afterthought. No more Mr. He'll Do, people. Here are some tips for strengthening your story by choosing just the right setting.

1. First of all, if the story really could take place anywhere, don't over-think it. Keep it simple, because in stories like these, the setting truly is just background. However, there should be places within the general setting that are important to the character. Melinda's janitorial closet in Speak. Or the forest outside District 12 for Katniss in The Hunger Games. Those sacred places should reveal something about the hero: her desires or fears, her true character, her
 Achilles' heel. When individualizing your setting so it reflects upon your characters, ask yourself these questions: Which specific part of the setting is most important to them? Why? What should that area reveal about them? Build your setting around the characters and their conflict and you'll create a place that readers will want to re-visit.

2. Make sure your setting comes fully-stocked with challenges, because…let's be honest: the perfect world actually sounds pretty boring. Characters need problems to overcome, and the setting is a natural vehicle for conflict. Look at Middle Earth. Black, chasm-ridden mines. Midge-filled marshes. The Paths of the Dead. When deciding on a setting, choose one that makes sense for your characters but one that also makes things difficult in some way—specifically difficult for your hero, if possible. Is he afraid of heights? Throw some skyscrapers or narrow mountain passes in there. Does he suffer from seasonal allergies? Set the story in spring. Specifically design your setting to complicate your hero's life, and it won't fall flat.

3. One of the most important aspects of a strong setting is your character's emotional connection to it. The stronger a character's connection to her world, the stronger a reader's connection will be to that world. To strengthen this connection, first choose a setting that perfectly fits your character, then show the character interacting with that setting. For example: South Dakota isn't on my list of places to visit, but Laura Ingalls Wilder was smitten with it, and through her eyes, I could see its charm. However, a negative connection can be just as strong as a positive one. In Katherine Paterson's Jacob Have I Loved, lead character Sara Louise hates living on Rass Island. But in describing how detestable it is, Paterson creates a crystal clear view of the place, and the reader comes to realize that the setting is only ugly to Sara Louise because she's so miserable herself. Describe your setting through the point of view of your character—its beauty or ugliness, prosperity or poverty, desirability or loathsomeness. Show how the main character is emotionally-connected to the setting and your reader will share that connection as well.

Starting the Year with Thanks

I've wanted to do this post for a long time, but decided to wait for the New Year, because it's really important. What better way to start 2011 than with our appreciation for all of you?

As we move closer to our 3rd blog birthday, Becca and I can't help but reflect on how much we've grown as writers. This is in large part to our peers, who are so giving with their knowledge and insight. Where would we be without you? When we started this blog, our mandate was to try and give back as well as we could. Luck has been with us, and with so many great writing blogs pioneering the way, we've had a wonderful footpath to follow!

The start of a new year is a good time to step back and look at the big picture. Things are so different now than when I first started writing. When I stepped onto the highway to publication, all I saw was the titanic undertaking ahead, filled with highs and lows, worries over whether I had what it took and knowing I had much to learn before I could hope to succeed. I didn't dare tell anyone about my big dreams, so it meant facing the obstacles without help. I felt so alone, so full of doubt.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? 

But then the more involved I got online, the more I began to see how a wonderfully supportive community walked the path with me. All I needed to do was reach out! Everything changed--I grew in leaps and bounds. Each person I met became a mentor, openly sharing what they knew, making me a stronger writer.

This blog is a result of being part of that community, and this post is our thanks. All of you, no matter where you are in the journey, have taught us. Your blogs, tweets, pages, forum postings and blog comments (here and elsewhere) have greatly contributed to our knowledge and understanding of the craft. Your support, emails and well wishes see us through the low moments when our goals seem too far to reach. When dark doubts creep in, you are there to pull us out. We cannot thank you enough!

Becca and I believe that when success comes, it is not just ours, but something shared with all of you. We appreciate your passion, courage and insight and are looking forward to giving back in the year ahead. Happy 2011, Musers!


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