By: Becca Puglisi
One of the things that pumps me up the most when I’m reading a book is when the author phrases things in a way I’ve never seen before. It could be a familiar concept or image—red hair, an urban street, fear—but when it’s written differently, I’m able to visualize that thing in a new way, as if I’m seeing it from a new angle.
This idea of turning tired phrases into new and interesting ones has intrigued me for a while—so much so that I have a notebook full of samples I’ve found in various books. When I get stuck trying to describe something in my own writing, I pull it out and study the passages to see how the author was able to put a new twist on a well-used phrase. As a result, I’ve figured out a couple of tricks for how we can amp up our descriptions for both fiction and nonfiction works.
The beauty of these techniques is that they work
for settings, physical features, character emotion—all kinds of
descriptions. Here are a few of the methods I’ve learned:
(1) Experiment With New Ways To Phrase the Cliché
Writing is hard work. Sometimes, when we get hung up on a certain passage, it’s
easiest to fall back on the phrasings
that are most comfortable: butterflies in the stomach, snow that sparkles like
diamonds, a peaches-and-cream complexion, etc. To move beyond these clichés,
focus on one aspect of the description and experiment with new ways to say that
one part. Take this sentence, for instance:
Her eyes are like the lit end of a cigarette, burning into me. (Al Capone Does My Shirts, Gennifer Choldenko)
Eyes like the lit end of a cigarette. What a great way to express an angry gaze. You can almost imagine the author’s brainstorming process: How do the eyes burn? What do they look like as they’re burning? What description could I use that expresses both the anger in her eyes and the way they make the viewpoint character feel? This is a great example of how a potentially clichéd phrase can be freshened up with a little extra thought and effort.
Change The Focus
. . .
To read the rest of the post, click here:
If you missed my writing & marketing tweets and retweets yesterday, here they are again:
- Writing: The Art of Turning a Unique Phrase | The Creative Penn http://ow.ly/UfuKL
- 8 Tips on Creating Single-Author Box Sets to Sell More Books http://ow.ly/Ufv6v
- The Writers Alley: Why An Author Should Try Pinterest http://ow.ly/UfvtW
- How Writers Can Avoid “Underwriting” Emotions | Live Write Thrive http://ow.ly/Ugcjm
- 12 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Book Cover Designer http://ow.ly/UgcT6
- 7 Rules to be Successful as an Author by Judith Briles http://ow.ly/UgcYK
- Insights into the Dreaded First Page | http://ow.ly/Ugdbf
Writability: On Maintaining Suspension of Disbelief http://ow.ly/UgdhO
- Writing Does Not Equal Publishing: Five Reasons You Write and How to Reclaim the Joy http://ow.ly/UgdmD