I seem to have a writing with depth theme going on here. Depth is one of those very advanced writing skills that’s incredibly hard to understand. And the scary part is that it sounds simple to do, and it isn’t. It took me three years to understand how to do it.
The title of the article is pretty poor, but it’s an article on writing with depth with some great examples. It focuses mainly on the five senses, which I’ve seen many people write about–and it’s still an incredibly hard skill to master.
I think today’s political culture has made it hard for writers. We’re both encouraged to included diverse characters (always a good idea because it makes for better stories), but at the same time, describing diverse characters can turn into a minefield. The examples here are surprisingly simple.
When I was first on the writing message boards, I saw a lot of writers do an action scene in a very short paragraph. They thought it had to move fast, so they kept it short and disappointing. Fight scenes aren’t about being fast, fast, fast, but about the excitement, and the danger. You don’t get that without #3 on this list.
I’ve been working on a short story for an anthology call that’s closing tomorrow, but I had time for a quick walk around the neighborhood to have a look at the Halloween decorations. These are some of the pretty cool ones. Enjoy!
This is a ghost over a garden entrance. It’ll be pretty spooky at night with all the shadows from the garden.
I found Stonehenge! It’s down the street!
Clearly waiting for public transportation.
Only in Washington DC… Note the bottles of booze (which I did not see when I took the picture).
Nikki opened her mouth to retort.
Stopped as the air chilled.
The day darkened as if a shadow passed in front of the sun.
Brian got out of the truck, pulling off his sun glasses. People were coming out of their houses to see what was happening.
Pressure tightened its grip around Nikki.
It was hard to breathe.
The air turned tubulent. Smelled rancid. Yellows, oranges, and black swirled up into the currents, a macabre version of Monet.
A current caught a plastic trash can and hurled it away. Papers were snatched up by the current.
“Into the truck!” Brian yelled.
Nikki yanked at the door handle. It was locked!
Before heading over to talk to Father, Randy stopped to drop Molly off inside his house. Especially since she’d been so patient while he and Nikki were eating lunch.
He went into the kitchen to raid the dog biscuits. He kept them on the windowsill overlooking the backyard. The moment he touched the container, Molly started bouncing. Barked once, to make sure he knew she was hungry.
She scuttled around his feet, so excited. Could not wait for him to open the container. Now, now, now!
“C’mon,” he told her, amuzement pressing at his lips. “I do feed you.”
He fumbled in the container for one of the biscuits. He’d have to buy a new container soon.
Molly yipped, too high. He turned in time to see her flee into the living room like she’d tangled with a cat.
He was about to go after her when the light through the window changed abruptly.
Something was trying to get through.
This week’s book sale was the big one at the library. They have one in October and another in April.
The sale itself is located on a floor in the garage. It’s a permanent fixture in the garage, but closed off behind a gate except when there’s a sale. The sale was advertised as having 75,000 books!
- Close to Shore: A True Story of Terror in an Age of Innocence (it’s about shark attacks)
- Drilling Through Time: 75 Years with California’s Division of Oil and Gas
- Espionage: The Greatest Spy Operations of the 20th Century
- The Island of the Colorblind (about a place where everyone is colorblind)
- The Man Behind the Magic: The Story of Walt Disney
- Law and Order: The Unofficial Companion
- Looking for a Ship: U.S. Merchant Marine
- My Secret Life as a CIA assassin
- The Raging Sea: The Powerful Account of the Worst Tsunami in U.S. History
- Shirley Jones: A Memoir
- Star Trek Memories
- Star Trek Movie Memories
I had to be creative about where to look for these books. Military was where I found the spy books, though I don’t think they have anything to do with military. I found the California one in the science section. Plot showed up in the Performing Arts.
The one that caught my attention the most was the Law and Order book. It’s just got the first 10 seasons of the show. But in scanning through it, the book made me realize why I like the show. It’s a lot like Star Trek, and also The Orville It presents stories that don’t always have easy answers, and often have a lot of differing opinions. It’s entertaining and makes you think a little.
The Washington DC weather is doing what it’s famous for: Hot, hot, cool, hot, hot, cold! I have no heat yet, and it’s freezing! We got frost last night.
If you’re not using these, they’re a cool discovery. One link, and it goes to a page where all the places your book is sold are listed. So much better than trying to track down different links!
Some different comments from readers. I’ll put down a book because it simply doesn’t grab me for reasons I can’t explain. But I’ve also put down a book for too much dialect, which makes it hard to read; too much profanity (as in multiple ones in a few pages), because it signals a taste level I’m not going to like; and anything that happens to annoy me. Reading is always very personal.
I ran across this book purely by accident, but it talked about data analytics (what I do at work), so I got it. I was hooked by the chapter on keywords. I’m terrible at keywords, so I was trying out something new to see what results will be.
After Randy left to try to talk to his father. Nikki walked back to the house to get her car. The sun sparkled at her, as if pleased she was walking out in it. But it didn’t lighten the fear that settled in her belly.
Randy had been frightened, too. And he’d admitted he hadn’t been honest with her. Once he’d done that, she’d seen the lie in his words that he had spoken…something he hadn’t told her. She had wanted to call him out on the lies, but she didn’t want to dynamite bridges that she might need later.
So she followed along the line of the great houses, her ankle boots clicking on the sidewalk. She paused in front of each house, giving it a lingering look.
Trying to feel the music.
She reached for each house, imagining that she was putting her hands on the brick walls.
No music. Only the wind as it ruffled fingers through the oak leaves high above.
She ran her hands through her hair, trembling. She wanted to think it was how far away she was from the houses, but a stench came to her…like a black hole rotting away.
The thought made her quicken her pace. She did not want that to happen to her house.
Yes, her house.
Almost as if she’d been telepathically transmitting her thoughts, a horn beeped right on the end of that thought. She turned, shading her eyes.
Brian. In his big Ford Bronco. The engine grumbled as he pulled up next to her. The passenger window rolled down.
He leaned across the seat, giving her that golden smile of his. He was wearing sunglasses, so she couldn’t see his eyes.
“I was wondering what became of you,” he said. “Why are you walking?”
If she’d been two, she would have reluctantly dragged her blanket behind her. She sighed and walked to the open window. He had the air conditioning on high and one of his remixes playing. A child’s voice cried with wonder, sliding into a man’s voice.
“I just came back from lunch,” she said.
“You should have called. I would have gone with you.”
She would have normally done that. It amazed her that she hadn’t even thought of that.
She rested her elbows on the bottom of the window frame, the weariness of the day suddenly hitting her. She did not want to deal with this. She wished she could find a hole and hide from the rest of the day.
“What do you want, Bryan?” she asked.
“C’mon.” He reached across to stroke her left hand. “I just wanted to be with you.”
That was a lie. One that hurt.
She reminded herself not to burn this bridge either.
“I wish you’d called,” she said. “It’s hard for me walking around my family’s house.”
He squeezed her hand, all smiles. His cheerfulness actually hurt because it was so plastic.
Nikki withdrew her hand, trying to make it look like she was only shifting position. “Please. Don’t go in fix-it mode, Brian. Sometimes things don’t always need to be fixed.”
He pushed his sunglasses down on his nose, looking at her over them. “Then why are you hanging onto the house for so long if it’s making you sad?”
The question scratched at her anger.
“I’ve been here exactly two days. That is not a long time. What the hell are you up to?” She slammed her hands on the window sill. It stung her palms and she didn’t care. “Which one of my family told you to get me to sell the house? What story did they tell you?”
So much for this bridge. But it had Brian squirming.
He pushed his sunglasses back up to hide his eyes. “They just want to help.”
“No, they don’t,” Nikki said. “That’s just what they’re telling you.” A man in Bermuda shorts and a Dodgers t-shirt approached on the sidewalk. Nikki fell silent, waiting until he passed. Then she caught of whiff of peppermint mingled with cigarette smoke. It awakened a memory in her. Of the last time she’d been in the house as a child. Nikki leaned into the window again. “Brian, make up your mind which side you’re on. Right now, I don’t know if I can trust you anymore.”
Randy and Nikki didn’t say anything as they walked into town with Molly bouncing along eagerly at the end of the leash. The dog stopped to provide an obligatory bark, once at another dog across the street and also at a bicyclist who whizzed past.
Nikki looked shaken by her encounter with the music of the house. Randy had heard it himself, which surprised him. He hoped that wasn’t a bad sign.
He wanted to take her hand and just hold it. But that would complicate things for her, especially with what he was going to have to tell her.
They stopped for lunch at a Thai restaurant on the main street of town. It was a small restaurant with an outdoor eating area fenced off with an iron fence. Molly sat outside the fence by one of the dog water dishes, sitting, her eyes intent on the tables above. She had the attention span of a gnat, except when there was food. Her attention then rivaled a virtuoso.
“You’d think no one ever feeds her,” Nikki said. It was half-hearted; her mouth was tight.
“If I fed her every time she asks, she’d look like one of those Goodyear blimps,” Randy said.
Nikki didn’t smile. Yup. Right.
Randy fiddled with his napkin-wrapped silverware. He felt like there was an elephant sitting between them.
“You know something,” she said.
The server brought their food and set down the two plates and bowls of rice. Nikki’s plate was unexpectedly pretty—white soup with a basil sprig in the center. Coconut milk wafted up. She dipped her spoon in, tasting it cautiously, since sometimes even the mildest Thai food was spicy. It was wonderfully creamy and only a little heat.
Randy scooped up rice and used it to soak up the liquid of his curry. He knew to stay mild with this restaurant. Even that was almost too spicy.
“Yes, I do,” he said. “If I’d told you before, you’d have thought I was crazy. Or worse.”
He glanced away. “I don’t want you to be angry with me, and I don’t see any way you won’t.”
“What was that I felt…that music?” she asked.
“Something the house is supposed to be. I don’t know that much. There was a feud between my family and yours, and no one wants to talk about anything.”
“What was the feud over?”
Randy shrugged. He stirred his curry, watching the green soup swirl. “I don’t know. I’m not even sure anyone else in the family knows any more. They just remember the anger. Father didn’t even want me talking to you. But the Southworths built the house—houses—for the Chandlers and the other families.”
Below him, Molly swept the sidewalk with an eager tail.
“There were originally seven houses,” he said. “Yours is the only one left that’s remained in the family. People haven’t respected the history of the others houses. They’ve remodeled, tore things out.”
“Broke the music?” she said.
He nodded. “Like cutting a thread.”
A baby two tables down screeched and threw a piece of food. It landed on the other side of the fence. Molly launched at it. Randy caught at the leash and pulled it taut.
“No, you don’t,” he told her, a stern finger extended. “We don’t even know what that is.”
Molly looked up at him, button eyes all innocence.
“But how does it work?” Nikki asked. “What does it have to do with—” She broke off, glancing at the family with the baby. “With what’s in the room? It does have something to do with it, right?”
That’s where Randy’s knowledge went askew. He remembered watching the house being built, the masons laying their stone. He’d felt the music riding the air, growing stronger with each stone and the ring of the tools. Father had told him this was a special place, destined for special things, for a special family.
He’d been too little to understand it. Special sounded so very important, and he remembered the Chandler men strutting impressively in their suits. And Adelia, who he had been charmed with (and truthfully had a crush on). She’d always smelled like music, if it had a smell.
All he could do was shake his head. “I don’t know. I heard people talking about the room, but they didn’t know I was listening. They called it a portal room, to place of gold and music.”
I went to my second book sale of the month this weekend. This was a fluke that I discovered this one…it wasn’t at a library.
It was at the State Department!
Yes, that State Department.
I actually didn’t expect to find much. As a result of my research class, I’m looking for used books to build my research library. My topics are:
- Hollywood (40s and 50s)
- the sea
- Science Fiction
Given that the books were donated by state department employees, I expected a lot of politics. But who knows?
So hoofed it down on Metro with a backpack to carry my books. Little did I realize how much of a challenge my trek was going to be. The site said the sale was near the Foggy Bottom metro stop.
I had show my ID to get into the building and passed by at least six police officers to get to the sale inside. It was a pretty building for a government building, and there were historic pictures of diplomats up on the walls. Also a very cool statue outside of a man with a globe.
The sale was in a large room with an extension of a tent off the room. Just tables with the books on top of it. I had to look pretty carefully in different categories to find books. Three was a section for the Hollywood type books, but I find all of the ones I bought in other areas.
I accumulated a small stack of about six of the books and one of the volunteers came over to put the books into a book check for me. After a few minutes, the book check lady came over and asked me where I had found the spy books (2&3). She thought they were great titles.
I accumulated more books, and by now I was hoping I could actually get them back to the Foggy Bottom Metro. I ended up with two bags of books (we do not discuss how much I paid; I wished I’d checked the price on one book. I would have passed on it as too much!).
Book check person commented that I had a lot of books.
Check out person commented that I had a lot of books.
Bag check person commented that I had a lot of books. I did ask her if everyone was just buying only a few. I’ve seen people at the county library sale get boxes of books. She said I was the biggest buyer of the day.
I packed most of the books in my backpack and carried the partially full second back.
Guard #1-5 commented that I had a lot of books.
It was a baker’s dozen:
- The Final Dive: The Life and Death of Buster Crabb
- The Encyclopedia of World War II Spies
- The Catcher was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg
- The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea
- Rock Hudson: His Story
- Black Holes: A Traveler’s Guide
- The Ice Master: The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk
- The Edge of the Sea
- In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whale Ship Essex (this was the higher priced book)
- You Must Remember this: Life and Style in Hollywood’s Golden Age
- The Untold Story of Getting from Here to There: Time and Navigation
- Exploring the Deep Blue Frontier
Uphill back to Foggy Bottom Metro. Just in time to catch a train! Yay! I think I had my exercise for the day. Now to figure out what to do with my books…
And then there’s another library sale locally next week.
Wow. This talks about the new way companies manipulate writers into writing for free. It used to be for exposure because it was hard to get. Now the tune has changed.
A pair of articles on writing women characters. I grew up wanting to see girls have a role in their own adventures besides being rescued. I know that women aren’t as strong as men, but there’s a difference between sitting around waiting for help and doing something…anything.
We don’t see this as much today, but during the 1960s, TV shows had be reviewed by the studios for offensive material. The studios were very nervous about the navels of women, how clothes fit women, and even a woman being seen in bed with her husband (this is why couples slept in separate beds in their bedrooms). Somehow showing what the rest of the world was doing was off limits.
Well worth looking at the video at the bottom of the article. It’s an in-depth look at how the dress was made, and the impact on our culture and our memories of Marilyn Monroe. My mother always liked Marilyn Monroe, so she has a special place for me (and my mother was also named Marilyn).