Monday, August 6, 2012

Add Power to Your Writing from Caroline Clemmons

Caroline Clemmons writes mystery, romance, and adventures—although her earliest made up adventures featured her saving the West with Roy Rogers. Her career has included stay-at-home mom (her favorite job), newspaper reporter and featured columnist, assistant to the managing editor of a psychology journal, and bookkeeper. She and her husband live in rural North Central Texas with a menagerie of rescued pets. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family, reading, travel, browsing antique malls and estate sales, and genealogy/family history. Today, she shares ways to pump up the power in your writing.

Are there authors you read simply for the beautifully expressive way they write? There are numerous authors I turn to for inspiration. One of the reasons for their impact is they use active verbs, unique metaphors, and nouns that paint word pictures. They never tell, never use clich├ęs; instead, they show so well we drink in their pages.

Each of us knows to avoid weak words: felt, just, simply, etc. But avoiding those words is not enough. We have to come up with dynamic ways to express our character’s thoughts and feelings so people will read and reread our books.

For instance, one might write:
“The Gothic Revival house had been opulent at one time, but now displayed its age.” Nothing really wrong with that, is there?

Sarah Addison Allen in THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON wrote:
“The house looked nothing like the rest of the houses in the neighborhood. It had probably been an opulent white at one time, but now it was gray, and its Gothic Revival pointed-arch windows were dusty and opaque. It was outrageously flaunting its age, spitting paint chips and old roofing shingles into the yard.”

Has stress ever left you disoriented or frozen? Here is Lori Wilde’s description of her heroine’s reaction in ALL OF ME:

“’Yes,’ Jillian said, but she could barely hear herself. She was a bright kite who’d broken loose from its tether, flying high into a cloudless blue sky. Up, up, and away, higher and higher, smaller and smaller. Soon she would disappear, a speck in the sky. What was happening to her?”

What about descriptions of a first meeting? I love the way Loretta Chase introduces the hero in LORD PERFECT Berkley Sensation, March 2006]. And what lovely names she uses! She uses the hero’s POV to describe the heroine.

            She was the sort of woman who made accidents happen, simply by crossing the street.
            She was the sort of woman who ought to be preceded by warning signs.
            From a distance, she was breathtaking.
            Now she stood within easy reach.
            And now . . .
            Once, in the course of a youthful prank, Benedict had fallen off a roof, and briefly lost consciousness.
            Now, as he fell off something and into eyes like an indigo sea, he lost consciousness. The world went away, his brain went away, and only the vision remained, of pearly skin and ripe plum lips, of the fathomless sea in which he was drowning . . . and then a pink like a sunrise glowing upon finely sculpted cheekbones.
            A blush. She was blushing.
            His brain staggered back.

I don’t know about you, but I find those descriptions vivid and highly satisfying.

Go through your favorite books and pick out choice phrases you wish you’d written.
Then read through your WIP. Are there places you can reword to increase the distinct idea you wish to convey? Editing for vivid verbs, unique phrases, and picturesque nouns will result in greater readership.

Thanks for having me as a guest!

Check out books by Caroline Clemmons at

Excerpts from her books and some of her exceptional reviews can be found on her website at View her blog posts Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at and find book reviews, giveaways, interview, and miscellany. Sign up at either site for her newsletter to learn of new releases, fun contests, giveaways, and recipes.
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Ruby Johnson said...

What a great post! I liked your examples. Each makes the text come alive one for the scene and the other for description of the heroine. I'll be thumbing through books today looking for descriptions such as this.

Earl Staggs said...

Great advice with excellent examples. Thanks for this.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Thanks for hosting me today. I enjoy this blog, so it's an honor to appear here.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Great advice here. I have been working on putting more description into my stories and though it is not easy, it is fun to see what you can create.

Carra Copelin said...

Caroline, I love this post. Excellent examples. This is something I struggle with everyday and, while I know I'm not alone, it is a challenge to write lines that draw the reader in. Thank you so much.

Lyn Horner said...

Hey Caroline, I'm late as usual. What a great post! Thanks for sharing such terrific examples. I love every one.

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