Amazon Kindle, Character building, Encouragement, show don't tell, Writing, writing tips

Three Ways To Skyrocket Blah #Writing To Amazing

"Life in the Wall" project, by M. Ali, photo by Tim Green,
“Life in the Wall” project, by M. Ali, photo by Tim Green,


Last night I read my short story to an audience of 80+. My son, brother, and some friends came out to hear me read and accept my award, which made me a little nervous but their presence meant a lot to me. The positive comments afterward helped lift me up from the weariness I and other writers often experience since we usually work in isolation.

Most writers want to write AMAZING prose. Words so delicious that readers can’t wait to scoop up every tasty morsel and flip the page for more.

We want readers to feel emotion when we compose our sentences, to get goosebumps and shivers of excitement. We want readers to be inside the story. We want them to see what we see, hear what we hear, and be right where we are in our head.

Writers want to take the reader into the ghostly forest, a medieval castle, far-flung flung planet, or inside a prison.

So how do you amp up your writing?

  1. Describe what the characters experience without telling them the emotion, i.e. fright, sadness. Describe the sensory details. Use the five senses: Sight, sound, taste, smell and touch. There are really six, but more about that one later.

    Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. Anton Chekhov


This is my stack of books on writing. The ones by Stephen King, Ann Lamott, and Natalie Goldberg are hiding somewhere:

books on writing, books on revision
My Books on the Craft of


All of these are great books for the mechanics of writing but my go to book isn’t in that stack. It’s on my Kindle.

book on writing craft, emotions thesaurus, writers companion on character expression
The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi

This book describes the sixth sense: Emotions. There are 75 emotions described by the possible body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for each. I also have the companion e-book called Emotional Amplifiers. (The latter book is free). 

2. Create compelling characters who have strengths and weaknesses, who are unique in their own way, and who have qualities worth rooting for or caring about. Show some physical characteristics, some language quirk and some personality. Give the reader a character worth remembering.

3. Create the mood by describing the setting. Again, the reader needs to be immersed in the story by visualizing the scene.

Here are some helpful tips on how to incorporate sensory details in your writing:

Creating sensory details in fiction
Tips for Creating Sensory Details


And here’s some handy tips for creating the mood of your scenes.

Tips on creating mood in stories
Tips on How to Describe and Create a Mood in Fiction Writing


These books, The Setting Thesaurus, aren’t out yet, but I’m watching Writers Helping Writers website for the launch date, which right now is June 13, 2016. I’m excited and marked my calendar for their arrival.

I’ve pinned these charts to my “Writing Tips-Fiction” on my Pinterest boards for future reference. You might want to do the same.



revisions, senses, show don't tell, writing tips

Painting Pictures

          Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton  Chekhov

One primary commandment stands out in my mind about learning the craft of writing. I heard this over and over again: Show don’t Tell. Mr. Chekhov up there on the header gave a great example. It sounds easy but we have to dodge the flowery adjectives, adverbs, use of ing’s and dialogue tags or we sound like ‘hack’ writers. 

My first writing group leader shared some ways to remind us how to show. She had six symbols on a piece of paper: 
a mouth for taste
a heart for feelings
a nose for smell
a hand for touch
an ear for sound 
and an eye for sight.  

On the right margin of our story we penciled in a symbol when we used a sense on a page. If we didn’t have five or six senses on each page it was time to rewrite. With a glance, you knew which sense you missed.

Later she added S and M-not that S&M- for Simile and Metaphor. One of each to a page. 

Following these tips helped show the story in just a few sentences. An example: “Mary took her dog on a walk,” became “Mary tied the cozy shearling coat around Don Juan, her spotted hairless Chihuahua, as he sniffed at the spicy aroma of chorizo wafting from the windows of the adjacent taqueria.”  I think I can pencil in three symbols in this one sentence. 

Next time someone critiques your writing and yells, “Show don’t tell,” just take a crayon, red pen, or whatever gets your attention and start using the right hand margin to note whether you’ve used the senses. It will be more work but you’ll exercise your brain and come up with some good, if not great, gems. 

Smart group leader isn’t she? She has some more handy tips for writers and when she publishes her book on them you’ll be the first to know.