A Hairy Subject

Back to descriptions I go. I was reading something and the writer described the woman’s hair colour. I’m not going to share that because it’s not mine to share. However, I’ve come up with something similar to illuminate: Shiny as the mane of a Paso Fino.

Um no.  For a couple of reasons. One the image that comes to mind is not flattering for a human description, two not everyone knows what a Paso Fino is. It’s a horse, lovely creature but not the best colour comparison out there for an attractive woman.  I get it everyone wants to be super creative, but sometimes I think the over used ‘black as ebony’ or ‘golden as the summer sun’ get a little cliché, overused, or boring if you will.

In my opinion there is nothing wrong with just using the actual hair colour and if you need to make it more interesting pick a hairstyle or make it move.  I went to Wikipedia to pilfer these terms for natural hair colour.

Black 
Natural black 
Deepest brunette
Dark brown
Medium brown 
Lightest brown 
Natural brown 
Light brown 
Chestnut brown 
Light chestnut-brown 
Auburn 
Copper 
Red 
Titian hair (Brown orange/red)
Strawberry blonde 
Dark blonde 
Golden blonde 
Medium blonde 
Light blonde 
Very light blonde 
Grey 
White 

Maybe it’s just me but I find keeping the physical descriptions basic, understandable and relate-able a much better method of visualization than getting grotesquely over creative. I do like to incorporate the description of the person to the environment around them.

Let’s see if I can come up with some examples of over doing it to describe someone’s hair.

Her hair shimmered like the setting sun on the surface of a dark springtime puddle.
I kinda want to stomp on her face for fun…

The strands of hair moved across her neck in the gentle breeze like a field of golden wheat on a summer day. 
She is not an expanse of pre-processed bread ingredient.

His short hair shone in the moonlight like a newly picked soft yellow booger. 
Mmm well, I did that just to be gross, because I can.  😉

See what I mean? The subject matter used to describe can make or break the image. Okay how about I try again.

The light of the setting sun reflected on her dark blonde hair; framing her face in a kaleidoscope of radiant warmth.
Who fingers through that hair now?

Her golden blonde hair brushed softly across her neck from the gentle summer breeze.
Fewer crops and more jaw drops.

His short light blond hair shone in the bright moonlight.
A touch more romantic and a whole lot less gross.

Perhaps it is just me and I prefer a simple approach to how I’m going to imagine a person’s appearance. I do sometimes find too many specifics and flowery over description can trip me up when I’m reading.

For example:

She slowly ran her slender elegant fingers through her long satiny tresses that glittered in the sun like a veil of rubies and garnets. She flicked the alluring molten locks of crimson fire to rest gently behind her shapely curved ivory shoulder, like scorching flames licking a shapely sculpture of fragile porcelain.”

That’s an automatic eye roll for me. The poor woman is burning up in flames. I would much prefer a word-savvy description like this:

“Her slender fingers ran through her long dark red hair slowly. She flicked the Cabernet coloured tresses to rest behind her pale smooth shoulder.”

I would appreciate the small colour reference detail that wasn’t over the top with flowery descriptions.  A simple approach works best IMO.  It’s okay to say someone has dark brown hair without referencing dark chocolate or dark coffee. I don’t mind some creative colour descriptions in moderation and as long they fit the character and situation without giving an odd mental image. There are always exceptions and sometimes a little extra visual reference is good. But not if it’s over the top and over done I can be poetic without being cheesy. If I read

My advice about describing hair colour.
Keep the imagery appropriate and flattering. It’s not a good idea to pester the reader with too much. The only time I might suggest going overboard on a description of hair colour, is if it’s like the bright summer blue of a freshly washed Smurfs back-side. 

-Sheryl

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Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
 Automatic

Pest

One step forward and two steps back

The point of any story is to get from one point to another with entertaining bits in-between. Ideally, the protagonist is on a journey of some sort. Probably growth by emotions or achievements.  No path is smooth nor should it be. How dull would it be if nothing ever got in the way? If nothing pushed the hero off course and they sailed on through to the end easy-peasy.  Yawn. Double yawn even.

I am a huge fan of the setback, the ‘are you freaking kidding me?’ moments.  I don’t care for over the top non-stop terrible incident after terrible incident. The kind where the character can’t ever catch a break, so much that it becomes annoying. In those cases it’s more about bad luck or sensational writing without content. Like a sweet strawberry cream filled chocolate without the strawberry filling. It’s okay, because hey, chocolate. But where’s the gooey good stuff?

All in all, the protagonist should be steadily gaining ground and when setback they should triumph and move along to the next obstacle.

What about those obstacles? Well, I try to make them meaningful to the story in some way. Random death or destruction is fun but if it means nothing to anyone in the story, the reader certainly won’t give a rats ass either.

For example, I’ll talk about Sasha. She is pretty high up in importance at the design firm. She knows how to utilize others’ skills appropriately and is a team player. She lacks drive or the push to get her to do what she should really be doing and starting her own agency. So I’ve set Amber on her to make her work life hell and later someone else will toss her to the flames and really light a fire under her butt.  Now in her personal life. She has a secret and a few select people in her life know about it. Something bad happened and slowly, this will be drawn out by a series of relationship related events. Some good, some bad and some very much both. Her friends are trying to force her to move on, men are trying to drag her out of her self-inflicted misery, but eventually someone will give her the courage to let it all go and move on herself. Don’t worry the path is riddled with awful things that make her grow as a person.

Cal is a detective and loves his job. His journey has not been addressed yet, so no spoilers.

Not all journeys are for the greater good. A character can wander from the ideal path and become well… bad. These are fun to play with. You can get super mean and nasty to them to drive them over the edge. Or maybe they’re already there and are the ones tossing out the roadblocks on the sly for the protagonist to trip on.

Think of it like a ladder. The side boards are the progression, the protagonist will climb from the base of the ladder to the top. Some rungs may break and others may be missing. Eventually they need to get to the top. Some characters will be making their way down. It’s easier to go down and even fall fast. Then there are the rungs of the ladder. It’s okay to have rungs, the characters/events that serve only to help someone else up or down. They have no real part in the journey other than that one moment.

Overall, the strong emotion eliciting moments are the ones that will keep the pages turning. How are they going to get out of this mess? What happens next?

My advice about setbacks.
Use them appropriately with cause and purpose. If you over do the set backs then the reader might start eye rolling and get bored or frustrated. Remember its all about the endgame. How can a struggle or set back make the reward sweeter?

-Sheryl

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Base

Eating emotions

Eating. We all do it, and so do the imaginary people I bring to life in my stories. Food is important in the real world, it’s familiar and can bring people together or tear a person apart. For some, it’s just sustenance and not important. For others, it can be all consuming, the life-force to which their very souls depend. It can be joy, pleasure, happiness, torture, guilt, shame, control, and more. Food can signify the promise of fulfillment, both physical and emotional.

Nobody wants to read a full on description of every component of a meal, but a familiar description of sight smell and taste. (Use caution if not writing in first person narrative about describing smell and taste, it will need to be filter word free and shown not told.) Most people know what things smell and taste like, a small reminder or a luscious one can evoke emotion in the reader that holds them tight to the story and endears them to the characters I want them to love as much as I do.

Writing food and food interaction is a fantastic tool in my opinion to highlight a person’s likes, dislikes, flaws, quirks, and habits, good or bad. The opportunity is there to create witty dialog or bring characters at odd with one another to a common ground.  It can be a spectacular method of conveying emotion or even emotional state.

Comfort food. What not to do.

Anne wiped her tears and pulled her knees to her chest as the apartment door opened behind her.
“Hey, you.” Garry kissed the top of her head and set the large deep-dish pizza down on the solid oak coffee table in front of the couch that Anne sat on while crying. “After what happened I thought you could use some comfort food.”
She nodded and wiped her face again as he sat and pulled her into his arms. “It was humiliating that Jane got the promotion. I know how she got it. Thieving bitch.”
He rubbed her back. “Well.” He said sitting up and he reached down and opened the box. The thick bubbly crust perfectly cooked to perfection. The spicy garlic tomato based sauce well hidden below layers of melted stringy mozzarella cheese.  The hot and spicy greasy pepperoni covered the pie generously and the crunchy crumbled bacon stuck in the cheese smelled salty and savory.  
“Mmm.” She reached for a slice. “You’re the best-est.”
“I am.” He chuckled. “And eventually Jane’s true quality of work will become apparent because you’re going to stop doing it all for her. Then when they look, they’ll see who the talent in that office is.”
Anne covered her half-full mouth behind her hand. “Yeah. Screw her.” She smiled. (216)

Seriously, it’s pizza in a fiction, not a recipe book or flowery restaurant review.

Anne wiped her tears and pulled her knees to her chest as the apartment door opened behind her.
“Hey, you.” Garry kissed the top of her head and set a steaming pizza box on the low coffee table in front of her. “After what happened I thought you could use some comfort food.”
She nodded and wiped her face again as he sat and pulled her into his arms. “It was humiliating that Jane got the promotion. I know how she got it. Thieving bitch.”
He rubbed her back. “Well.” He said sitting up and opening the box freeing the smell of spicy sauce, cheese, bacon and pepperoni upon them.
“Mmm.” She reached for a slice. “You’re the best-est.”
“I am.” He chuckled. “And eventually Jane’s true quality of work will become apparent because you’re going to stop doing it all for her. Then when they look, they’ll see who the talent in that office is.”
Anne covered her half-full mouth behind her hand. “Yeah. Screw her.” She smiled. (169)

In some cases I want super vague, to demonstrate the characters lack of interest in the details.

Mark looked at the selection of chocolate bars and yelled ‘no!’ in his head. The reflection of himself in the shop window showed him the gut that hung over his slacks, his thick neck, and double chin.
His stomach growled as he looked back, blindly grabbed and placed two bars on the counter along with the chips. Then two more as the clerk rung up his selections.
Leaving the store his frown deepened as he unwrapped two bars and tossed the wrappers in the trash before climbing into his truck.
He barely tasted them as he finished the second before he even turned over the engine. “Tomorrow.” He looked at his reflection in the rear-view mirror. With tears pricking his eyes, he fumbled with another wrapper. “Tomorrow I’ll start the diet.” He sniffled with his mouth full. “Tomorrow.”

Everyone knows what a chocolate bar (Or candy-bar) is brand and type wasn’t necessary here. Sometimes a bit more detail is necessary to set the tone… This is where the idea discussed in The FAB pencil comes in handy.

The bright red strawberry gave off its ripe fragrant aroma as Valery brought it to her lips. Parting them slightly she bit into the sweet juicy berry as Grant watched. His mouth watered not for the food, but for the sensual look in her eyes. Both for the fruit and for him. Unless he was imagining her attraction. He closed his eyes a moment to open them as her strawberry flavored lips touched his.

My advice about food.
People eat, so should our imaginary friends. I do recommend keeping the descriptions short and sweet, not too salty. I can’t make any promises, but if you trim the fat when necessary and garnish when it’s important you will grab your reader’s attention.

-Sheryl

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