Friday, February 15, 2013

Setting Descriptions

Last week I talked about an author whose character descriptions I admire. Today I'm going to continue the theme by spotlighting an author whose setting descriptions just blow me away. As a reader, I'm not really big on reading setting descriptions, but Holly Black does such an amazing job putting me right in the scene that her descriptions are a joy to read. Both these excerpts are from Chapter 1 of Tithe:

The air was heavy and stank of drying mussels and the crust of salt on the jetties. Waves tossed themselves against the shore, dragging grit and sand between their nails as they were slowly pulled back out to sea.

A few lines later:

She loved the serene brutality of the ocean, loved the electric power she felt with each breath of wet, briny air.

I can see the waves, feel the heavy air, smell the drying mussels, taste the briny air, and feel the grit and sand. All in three sentences that are poetic and effortless, not dragged down with the effort of trying to convey too much.

Do you have an author whose setting descriptions you particularly admire?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Character Descriptions

One of my favorite ways of improving my writing is to study authors who are particularly good at what they do. One thing that struck me when I read Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane was his character descriptions. They're unusual and remarkably vivid. They don't just describe what the character looks like, but usually give a glimpse of his or her personality as well.

Here's an excerpt from Lehane's Moonlight Mile to show you what I mean:

He was a small guy, wiry and bearded. His baseball cap, cotton hoodie, and battered jeans were streaked with grime. The ripe odor coming off him told me it had been a while since he'd bathed. He didn't have nut-bag eyes, though; there was no meanness in him, no crackhead edge.

Can't you just see this guy (and smell him)? I may not know his exact eye color or hair color, but what I do know about him tells me far more. I already feel like I'm getting to know him in just four sentences.

Do you have a favorite author for character descriptions? Have you read any of Lehane's books, maybe Mystic River or Gone Baby Gone?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Query Time

Happy Friday!

Well, I survived two weeks of school (barely, but I'm still here!) The homework is overwhelming, but it's fascinating stuff, so that helps a lot. My first bachelors degree was in electrical engineering. I'm really not sure how I managed that one because I have no interest in it at all. But my classes now (Anatomy & Physiology and Microbiology) are geared towards nursing students and are all about the human body, so it's like learning about myself. Pretty cool! And the labs I was so nervous about have actually been fun so far. So all in all, a very busy but good two weeks.

In writing news, I think my query is about ready to go. I spent a lot of time with Elana Johnson's From the Query to the Call, had several critique partners review my draft, and I'm still spit shining, but I think it's close. I've also been lurking on Query Shark and learning quite a bit from reading the archives. I'm considering the idea of submitting my query for critique, but I'm not sure I'm brave enough. Has anyone out there ever had a query critiqued on Query Shark? Do you have any other sites or resources for getting your query critiqued? And what references do you like to use when writing a query?

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!