Jul 21, 2012

Sharp Writing Methods

by Cindy R. Williams

Most writers tell me that they are always on the look-out for writing tips. Here are a few I keep in mind often.

1.  Use two sentences to set the scene. One using what the reader would see with their eyes if they were in the scene, and in the second sentence use another one of the four senses.  The scene quickly comes alive and the reader can make a good mental picture.

When I do school visits, I always ask the children to name the five senses. Then we do a little exercise by taking a simple sentence like, "The boy walked across the room."  I tell the students to give the boy a name, then as them, "What did he see? What weird smell could we have him notice?"   Then we take it even further and I add, "Let's give him a strange sound to hear like . . . gulp, gulp, gulp or ribbet, ribbet or a high pitched scream." Finally, we make a new sentence to include these senses, something like . . . "Scud McVee eyes watered from the stench of rotten garbage as he skidded across the yellow-green slime covered floor, trying to escape the purple spotted allegator's snapping vampire teeth." The kids get it. (They also like gross stuff.)  It is like an "aha" moment. Some of the teachers have reported back to me that their students stories have come to life and have taken on a new flavor by using their five senses. 

2. Give a character two attributes:
One, a physical trait like a scar on the forehead (Harry Potter) or black greasy hair (Professor Snape) and second, a personality trait such as extremely clever (Hermione Granger), or clumsy (Bella).

I like to give my characters personality traits that make it difficult for them to be the hero, like the Brody boy in my novel, Thundertail. He is seriously afraid of heights, yet has to ride a dragon or else . . . can't tell you what else yet or I would have to hunt you down and swear you to secrecy. 

Giving your character faults is a great way to enrich your character and your story.

Many of you probably already use a form of these two methods in your writing. Care to share what you do in a comment?


  1. Thanks Cindy! You always such great information and advice. Currently my biggest tool is writing something every day.

  2. Wonderful. It gives me a lot to think about...


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