When I was first starting out, I was given the basic advice made famous by Mark Twain. “Write what you know.” I felt deflated. I didn’t know anything. How was I supposed to write a book?
Then one year for Christmas (too many years ago to name), I received a great book called Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. On page 48 is a great two-page chapter called “Living Twice” that changed the way I looked at writing.
According to Goldberg, “Writers live twice. They go along with their regular life, are as fast as anyone in the grocery store, crossing the street, getting dressed for work in the morning. But there’s another part of them that they have been training. The one that lives everything a second time. That sits down and sees their life again and goes over it. Looks at the texture and details.”
Of everything I’ve ever read about writing, that is the one paragraph that summed it up for me. We can write whatever we want but our writing, much like our life, is in those details. Without the texture, the products of all of our senses, our work can be bland. Our characters need to experience the ear-piercing annoyance of a howling cat, the melting of sweet strawberry ice cream on their tongues, even the shivering cold of a snowstorm they must walk through to get to work in the morning.
When writing any genre, we draw our readers into our little world by bringing it to life. In Fantasy and even Science Fiction, we sometimes create entire worlds filled with wonder. Those worlds still have to be relatable to an extent. Sights, tastes, and textures still have to relate to what the reader already knows or they lose interest.
With Mystery and Romance, readers must feel the heart-pounding and gut-wrenching emotions they may have felt in the past. To just say a character is heartbroken means little. To describe to the reader how the character’s heartfelt like an empty tissue box someone stomped on before they tossed it into the trash bin emotes a little more empathy. Even relatability.
Recently, I listened to a lecture on Fantasy writing. The lecturer reminded his viewers to keep a sense of wonder. To walk through the woods and look at the bark on the trees, the water droplets hanging off branches after the rain, the squish of moss beneath your feet.
We know what bark looks like, but have we ever run our fingers over it?
We’ve all been caught in the rain, but what do the raindrops feel like as they slide through our hair and down the side of our faces?
Have you ever tasted a new-to-you food? Something that looks positively stomach-turning, yet if you don’t eat it you’ll offend your host?
Those are the details writing what we know draws in.
Glitter Bay Mysteries: Book 2
Publication Date: March 1, 2021
When Sage Miller’s sister Laken decides to host a fashion show as a grand opening for the new location of Vintage Sage, she’s not amused. Even less so when she discovers her sister hired a Hollywood fashion designer to help. Not only does the designer show up in the middle of renovations, but he drags along his protégé.
Then she finds Sebastian Hayward III, dead in her store.
Suddenly it seems half of Los Angeles—all unwelcome guests from Laken’s past—appear in Vintage Sage seeking something Sebastian had in his possession. Sage has to deal with renovations, a fashion show, and a murder before she and Laken come unglued.
Diane Bator is the author of several mystery novels—and series. She’s a member of Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime Toronto, International Thriller Writers, and the Writers Union of Canada. When she’s not writing, she works in a small, professional theatre which will one day be subjected to immortality in a whole new series.
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