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Posts Tagged ‘five senses’

When I’m working on a novel, ideas rise up at random times from the murk of my subconscious like pronouncements in a Magic 8 ball.  If I don’t write them down right away, these ephemeral thoughts can fade and disappear. FoggyMirror

Driving my 14-year-old son, Hayden, to summer camp in Maine on Sunday, I put him to work as both a DJ and a scribe. (After all, I was the chauffeur.)  He selected a Green Day song from his new i-Pod touch (an 8th-grade graduation present from an indulgent grandmother), then I was allowed a song by The Fray; he picked Ben Folds, I chose Dar Williams.  Every now and then I asked him to open my writing journal – a wire-bound, college-ruled notebook with a green plastic cover – and scribble a line:

Sea air in Galway

Fiction chooses the writer

Breath on the glass

Sea air in Galway. The Maine coastline in similar, in many ways, to the west coast of Ireland, 2500 miles to the east. With this note I was reminding myself to pay particular attention to the sensory details; I thought I might be able to use these impressions in a scene in my novel.

Fiction chooses the writer. This idea for a blog post sprung from an ongoing conversation with several novelists about how and why people start writing fiction.

Breath on the glass. As we drove in the rain, I saw Hayden turn his head to look out the passenger window at two guys on a motorcycle, both without helmets, grimacing into the downpour. Hayden’s breath fogged the glass. When he turned back to me, saying, “Wow, Mom, what were they thinking?” – I glanced over again, and saw that his breath had already evaporated.  And the guys on the bike were gone.

That’s how it is with these fleeting observations, and why I asked Hayden to keep a pen handy and the notebook on his lap. And he was happy to do it – as long as he could listen to Metallica and I promised to get him to Bar Harbor on time.

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Apple rottingGustave Flaubert kept rotten apples in his desk drawer to evoke autumn when writing scenes that took place in that season.

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five sensesThe problem of beginning …

The Southern novelist and poet George Garrett, director of creative writing at the University of Virginia when I was a graduate student there, always said that if you’re having trouble getting into a story (or a chapter or a scene) you should use all five sentences right at the start, preferably in the first paragraph:  touch, taste, smell, hearing, sight.  Your scene will jump to life, and you’ll have an easier time falling into the dream world of the story.

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