Some years ago my niece and her husband, and their two children, came from Australia to visit me in my little desert oasis home. The house was bursting at the seams, full of noise and good humor, and we all had a wonderful time. I was very taken with the girl child, Ebony. She was about eleven years old and she aspired to be a writer. When she spoke about her desire it was with a very adult view. She had a ton more confidence about her abilities than I have ever had. But she had excellent role models with her parents, and it seemed nothing was off limits. Shoot for the stars was probably their family motto.
One day Ebony and I were sprawled out on the couches, watching the Disney channel on TV and eating cookies, and chasing away the dog who was trying to intimidate us so she could get her share of those cookies. I began to ask Ebony about her writing. She said one thing she would not do, was illustrate her books. She said that words were more important, and that a book doesn’t need pictures because people can make their own.
That thought has stayed with over the years. In fact, now if I get to a scene and it isn’t working I remember what that young child said, and I think about creative imagery. What picture am I trying to form? What visual do I want the reader to take from my words? What pictures are my chosen words creating? Sometimes those words are giving a false picture. I have to go back in and make the words more vibrant, give them color, passion, fire, true meaning…I have to bring them to life. I have to make certain that my words and my characters actions are in sync, and if they aren’t then I have to show why they aren’t.
Barbara O’Neal, www.barbaraoneal.com is one of my favorite authors and I recently read her new book, The Garden of Happy Endings. When I read her stories I’m often blown away, not by her more descriptive passages (which are gorgeous) but by the simplest of her sentences. I’ll often turn up the corner of a page and go back to reread and always get the same pleasurable feeling I got on that first read. I think of them as sunbursts. Here is one:
It was the last sentence in a scene. Talk about an excellent hook. I mean how could you not read on? Oh, yes. I wanted not just the scent, but the possibility, and of course the author provided a wonderful follow up scene. But doesn’t that one simple sentence say so much? Doesn’t it create a picture in your mind? It does for me.
Words are very important. Thank you, Ebony, and thank you, Barbara.
Now tell me of some of your favorite authors whose words and pictures have stayed in your memory for days, months, and yes, even years.