Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Word Pictures

This is the cover of Buffalo Gal, my sweet contemporary romance set in a buffalo ranch in the South Dakota Black Hills, coming this month from Heartsong Presents.
Find out more in the BOOKS section at http://www.maryconnealy.com/
The cover has nothing to do with this days blog it is just pasted in here as part of a totally shameless plug for my soon to be released sweet contemporary romance set in a buffalo ranch in South Dakota, titled, Buffalo Gals.

I've been playing around with this as an exersize in writing. See what you can do with it.
Take the first sentence (or the last) and shine it up. It actually can take a surprisingly long time, this revision thing, but it is absolutely WORTH IT.
In an action scene, to really make things MOVE it needs to be polished and mangled and reworded, cut, add, cut again.

Comedy may actually take MORE work than action.

This line below, the first one, could go funny, it could go furious, I picked my own way and it kind of surprised me the way I picked.

So go for it, if you've got the time.

1) “It’s my birthday," he said. "You should have brought me a card!”

2)The boy was angry at the mailman. He said, “It’s my birthday. You should have brought me a card!”

3) The ten-year-old boy shook his fist at the disappearing mailman. “It’s my birthday. You should have brought me a card.

4) “It’s my birthday!” The ten year old boy saw the empty mail box. Disappointed, he covered his sadness with anger and turned toward the disappearing pickup. Shaking his fist, he yelled at the mailman, “You should have brought me a card!”

5) Excited as he raced down his sloping front lawn, Jeffrey’s white blonde hair blew across his eyes in the cold fall breeze. He left behind the mouth watering scent of the chocolate birthday cake his mom always baked for him. Leaves scattered and crunched under his ragged white Nikes.
He got to the road only seconds after Mr. Sampson had driven away with the spitting sound of wheels on gravel. Jimmy slapped the front of his new blue jeans and red Cornhusker sweatshirt, now coated with dust. He’d put on his best play clothes because of the special day.
With a sharp creak of its rusty hinges, he pulled open the cold metal door of the mail box that was shaped like a green tractor and peeked in at…nothing…empty…Dad had forgotten…again.
He turned toward the disappearing black pickup. Tears bit at his eyes but he told himself it was the blowing dirt. His big brother would never let him forget it if he cried. Instead he narrowed his eyes and shook his fist at that nice old man.
“It’s my birthday!” His voice faded to a whisper as he walked toward the house, his shoulders slumped, his feet dragging. “You should have brought me a card.”

Describe using the five senses:





Feeling words in body language not in words. 'He was angry' is boring to a reader. Instead, his teeth clamped together and he glared.

Set the scene:
What’s his lawn look like?

His mail box?

What time of year is it?

Is he inside or outside?

Alone or with someone?

How does he feel? If you do it right, the reader will not only KNOW how he feels, they'll feel it too. They won't just know he's sad, they'll BE sad. --Mary Connealy


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Excellent concrete example of expanding the characterization by employing setting and emotion.


Love it.

Ruthy (who for once has nothing to add)

Ann said...


He reminded me of my cousin, whose dad left when he was a baby. He was so hungry for a daddy -- my dad and my uncles tried to step up but it was hard.

Good work.

Tina M. Russo said...

Nice cover for a shameless plug.

I have to go to work but I look forward to making hilarious stuff out of the exercises you left us :)

( I am missing the baristo)

Melanie Dickerson said...

My writing is so spare. I can't imagine ever writing that last example. I do need to work on putting in my setting details, though. Thanks for the reminder, and the example of how revising can greatly improve first lines, and then some.

Still thinking of Madame Z and hoping I can have more breakthroughs today!

Kimberli said...

Mary, I don't know why, but I just love that cover.

Thank you for the tips and examples. I'll play around with it after class this afternoon.

That is, if I can figure out why that cover captured my attention. Something is flitting at the edge of my memory, but I can't quite catch it....

Audra Harders said...

Ruthy has nothing to add?? Quick! Call 9-1-1. She's having an attack of some sort!!

Great exercise in expanding the emotion. Poor kid. Makes me want to read the book to see how things turn out.

Instant reminder of the scene in Miss Congeniality where her coach (I forgot his name!) is so excited as he misintrepts her panic over the bomb in the crown.

*Yes! Yes! Wear the crown. BE the crown. . .*

Hmm, guess you had to be there.

Great cover, too, Mary!! You are batting a thousand on artwork!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

That's an awesome example, Mary. I didn't feel anything with the first few, but I sure felt his sadness in the last one.

Details really do help to draw the reader in.

Mary Connealy said...

Hi, Gang. I have only now checked in thanks to some dental work this morning. Oh the joy!

And Melanie, your writing isn't spare. Don't let me convince you to add a whole lotta flowery description that isn't needed. There's a balancing act between loading a story down with so much description the story drags to a full stop, and leaving it so blank the reader can't 'see' what you're telling them.

Mary Connealy said...

Kimberli, I like the cover too. Buffalo Gal is book one of a three book series which, if you subscribe to Heartsong Presents, will be coming three months in a row, Oct. Nov. Dec.
So more covers coming soon.
I love that feeling of an idea flitting, chase it down. Start writing and see what grows.

Mary Connealy said...

I know that moment in Miss Congeniality, Audra.
I loved that movie.
I really loved Michael Caine's arrogant, fussy beauty queen handler. He's priceless.

Julie Lessman said...

Comedy may actually take MORE work than action.

Oh, amen to that!! I try injecting a little humor in my writing, but it is oh, sooooo hard. Doesn't come naturally to me like it does to you and Ruthy, Mare.

Excellent post. The last rendition of that scene tore my heart out, Mare. You are good!!


Cheryl Wyatt said...

Excellent exercise Mary!

I'm with Audra. Makes me wanna know how the story turns out. LOL!

Nice job.


Cheryl Wyatt said...

Excellent exercise Mary!

I'm with Audra. Makes me wanna know how the story turns out. LOL!

Nice job.


Kim said...

Ok, Mary...that was GOOD!! Now, I haven't tried anything like this in forever, so tell me what you think. (I'm breaking out in hives realizing my fingers are about to type this exercise here!)

"It's my birthday," he said. "You should have brought me a card." His voice, just barely a whisper, spit the bitter words into the air as he turned away from the small, rusty slot that served as the apartment's mail drop.

It wasn't the postman's fault that his birthday didn't solicit will-wishes from family and friends. He was alone. There as no one left in his family to care about his birthday. There were no friends either, because no one wanted to spend time with a man who had been convicted of murdering his wife and son during a drunken rage.

Erica Vetsch said...

Love the cover, Mary. And the premise.

I'm working on learning to paint the word pictures while staying within the word count...sigh. I'm always banging my head against that word count.

Mary Connealy said...

Kim! You made me hurt for him. Wow, and it's so different, the setting, from mine. Excellent.

Nice job.

Mary Connealy said...

HPs take a serious special skill. Those books are short and it is hard to get the turn around from teh conflict to TRUE LOVE without it being forced.

I love how different the skills are for long, short, and cozy.

Jessica said...

Yep, yep, yep! YOu said it all.
And I'm so sorry I missed your chat last night.
I got there too late...

Mary Connealy said...

Jessica the chat was so out of control it was hilarious. Almost all the seekers showed up.
We were treated to a visit from Barista Jack, a highlight.

Very funny and now I'm probably grounded from the ACFW Book club because we were so badly behaved.

Tina M. Russo said...

We were wild last night weren't we. Who was that moderator? Do I need to hide from her at the ACFW conference? I tried to be good but everyone was just so darn misbehaving.

Lorna said...

Mary, thanks for the great exercise, and I could just picture the red Cornhusker sweatshirt. I've seen more than one of those.

Janet Dean said...

Buffalo Gal got a great cover, Mary!

And you did a terrific job of creating emotion in your readers. You know how to show! Great job!!!!


Debby Giusti said...

Mary, you are a genius! Love your new cover!

Kimberli said...

Buffalo Gal got a great cover

I agree, and plan to get a copy ;o)

Mary, I just reread the line about using the senses. This consistently bedevils me because I don't have much of a sense of smell--when I have one at all. I can't describe the scents of River Street in Savannah or the aroma of gingerbread at Christmas since I've never experienced them. I can only mention items I know are supposed to smell and hope the reader can relate to bacon sizzling in the pan or butter flowing over fresh baked bread. Yep, I get gigged for that.

BTW, I love that "Feeling words in body language" line. That's great.

Tammy Doherty said...

I'm a day (and a half) late, and at least a dollar short - story of my life :D

First, I really liked the "final draft" of your example, Mary. Wanted to cry but, like the boy, I wouldn't allow myself!

However, I can't believe no one else noticed that your boy changed names half way through! Just another example of why we edit! LOL

Tammy Doherty