Writing Tip — Writing with Senses.

babyw-3041366_1280This is the last post in the series by Cyle Young on exploring the five sense in writing and concerns the sense of taste. He provides an exercise to test your descriptive muscles.

Using the sense of taste has limits. While your characters are always seeing and hearing and touching, taste can only be used in certain settings. But if you are able to creatively evoke that sense for your readers, then a scene with taste in it will stand apart from the usual ones employing sight, sound, and touch.

As I mentioned in my post about smell, my main character Junior comes from a poor family and often goest hungry. When he finally gets to sit down to Sunday lunch, biscuits and chicken noodle soup, he thinks it tastes as good as “wild blueberry pie.” When he is battling insomnia, he thinks of his favorite foods, instead of counting sheep. I will revisit that scene to make sure I maximize my taste descriptions. In both scenes, the reader learns about what foods Junior likes, making him seem real.

I can also use food to make my setting seem real. My characters eat pepperoni rolls for lunch. Simply slice or planks of pepperoni wrapped in bread dough, it was invented in West Virginia. Describing local food or food popular during a specific time can aid in imagining an unfamiliar world.

My friend Sandra Melville Hart writes historical romances set during the American Civil War. One her blog, “Historical Nibbles”, she posts about food from that time period and others and tries out recipes like “Mulled Buttermilk” and “Creole Soup.”

How would you use the sense of taste in your writing?


Monday Sparks — Writing Prompts

birthdayw-2330496_1280Take one of your characters and grant them one wish. What would that character wish for? Or do it for all your main characters. This is a helpful exercise if you can’t decide on what is the guiding motivation for a character.

Or create a story about wishes. Maybe a world in which birthday wishes come true but only under certain circumstances/

Share if inspired!

Writing Tip — Favorite Stories

Endurance_9906In my post on Tuesday, I mentioned the weather in January is a perfect for a story of survival. The best survival story I have ever read is The Endurance by Caroline Alexander. It recounts the 1914-16 expedition to Antarctica, led by Britisher Ernest Shackleton. The goal of the expedition had been to be the first people to cross Antarctica. When their sailing ship The Endurance is crushed in the grinding ice, Shackleon’s goal changes to getting all his men back home alive.

I first read it in the summer of 1999 or 2000. I was working the children’s desk at a library, waiting for customers to ask questions. It was a slow evening, and I began reading The Endurance either to fill time or research for a library program.

Ms. Alexander’s spell-binding prose drew me in. I felt like I was living the adventure with Ernest Shackleton and his men, sensing the bitter cold, the blinding glow of sunlight on snow, and the increasing desperation as the men dragged themselves to the sea with their heavy but small sailboats, rescued from The Endurance.

When I looked up from the book, I was surprised to see a carpeted room, filled with book shelves and people in summer clothes. Where were the ice and snow? I had to take a minute to reorient myself.

Beside Ms. Alexander’s talent as a writer, it was the photographs that helped bring the story alive to me. Frank Hurley, the expedition’s photographer, was able to save many of the photographs he had taken before The Endurance had to be abandoned and brought them safely home after months on the the open ice. Unlike most works of history, I didn’t have to imagine the men from an author’s thumbnail descriptions. The photographs let me see exactly what they looked like and I could use those images to recreate the action in my mind.

So if you are looking for a good read on a cold and wintry evening, you can do no better than The Endurance. It will make you grateful for heat, slippers, and warm cups of tea.

What other survival stories have captured your imagination?

Writing Tip — Writing in Time

winterj-1367153_1280After all the hoopla of December and Christmas, January can be a huge letdown. New Year’s Day is a major holiday but it’s on the first day and feels like just an extension of Christmas. Below are some ways to explore January without letting it get you down.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. At the libraries where I worked, this always seemed a strange time to me. Half the staff was gone a vacation days, so nothing significant could get done. Customer visits dropped off, making it a good week to accomplish those little jobs that had piled up all year. But the atmosphere was one of waiting — waiting for the thrill of Christmas to wear off, waiting for the day of January 1. Such an in between time would be a good setting for characters to wrap up old business or experience something strange or unusual.

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. This year saw a full moon on New Year’s Day. I couldn’t find any special superstition or folklore associated with a full moon on this day, but it would be fun to invent one for a tale of speculative fiction. Richard Matheson wrote a fantasy short story. “Deadline”, about a man who lives and grows old in one year, born at the first tick of New Year’s Day and dying on the last second.

I’ve also read another short story, many years ago, about a man who waits outside a cemetery to talk to his dead father because he believes the living can speak to the dead on either Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve. I can’t remember which eve it is. It’s a wonderful short story and I have never been able to find it again. Ray Bradbury may be the author. If anyone knows this story, please tell me!

Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A perfect setting for exploring race relations. Since most kids have the day off school, and the weather is often cold and snowy, a children’s story or middle-grade fiction book about race relations concerning kids having fun on their day off seems appropriate.

Weather. Although the days are getting longer, you can’t tell it in January. The dark and the cold are suitable for any gritty or grim tale, whether urban, suburban, or rural. The weather especially lends itself to stories of survival.

The reason January doesn’t get me down is that it’s the Birthday Month at my house. All my kids and I were born in January. For several years now, at the end of the month, we celebrate the kids’ birthdays along with their winter-born cousins’s birthdays at one big birthday blow-out bash. I find it very helpful to have a modest celebration to plan for after all the work of Christmas. I’d rather not stop cold turkey.

Do you have a month with special, personal significance? Maybe it’s because of your family, friends, job, or where you live. Such a personal celebration can provide loads of inspiration.

How can you use January as a setting?


Monday Sparks — Writing Prompts

paperwr-3042645_1280Looking back to my post on resolutions for writing last year, I see that I didn’t keep them as well as I would have liked. I did maintain my blog schedule, posting on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. But I couldn’t keep up with my family journal for my kids. I’d forget and let a week slip by and then have to catch up.

So once again, I am going to try to write every day in my family journal. Even if I don’t maintain this schedule, it’s a good one to strive for.

Did you make resolutions in 2017? How well did you succeed in keeping them? Are you making new resolutions for the new year?


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