7 Examples of Writing Great Word Pictures for Your Stories

“For me, a page of good prose is where one hears the rain and the noise of the battle. It has the power to give grief or universality that lends it a youthful beauty.” —John Cheever

by geralt
by geralt

Sometimes a strong noun or verb is insufficient to evoke much in our readers. Word pictures take time to write, but if succinct, they bless readers’ experiences.

Word Pictures That Work


by Alexas-Fotos
by Alexas-Fotos

1.  “She strutted ahead, stabbed the wooden stairs with her spiked heels, and unlocked the front door.” Dry as Rain by Gina Holmes

“Stomped up the stairs” would’ve left out much about the woman with OCD.


2.  “Did she dare? She knew Aunt Nita wouldn’t begrudge her a piece of canvas. But painting again…could she recapture that girl who was willing to open her eyes wide enough to see past the boundaries of have-tos and shoulds and let color spill into something more than all the right places and shapes? Maybe it had been too long.” Wish You Were Here by Beth K. Vogt

This rewrite wouldn’t have captured the nostalgia: But could she paint again like the girl she used to be, one who didn’t follow all the rules?

by Gadini
by Gadini

3.  “There, in the shadows, stood our patio table set for two. She’d adorned it with a tablecloth and the silverware she only dragged out on holidays. Cloth napkins fanned out from empty wineglasses, which were paired beside crystal goblets of water. Candlelight flickered up from the center of the table and the iron sconces that hung on the brick wall behind us. Balmy night air wafted in through the screen, making the flames bend and bow.” Dry as Rain by Gina Holmes

Phrases like: “the good silverware;” “napkins were stuck in empty wineglasses next to goblets;” and “candles and wall sconces lit the area” would give setting descriptors. But they’d fail to set the mood or tell anything about the character’s wife.

4.  “As the sun sets, the cabin gets dark inside, too dark to read. He didn’t pay the electric bill again. I hope he pays it before Christmas or I won’t hear the songs on the radio.” Words” by Ginny Yttrup

I feel the loneliness of the child, and I don’t like her missing mother’s boyfriend.

by Ben_Kerckx
by Ben_Kerckx

5.  “Even the wind held its breath as the gathering of warriors stood solemnly around the altar at the stern of the ship. No part of the wooden deck was sheltered from the high sun burning unchallenged in a cloudless sky. The victory fire, renewed with faggots of oak and rowan, licked at them with hungry forked tongues.” Maire by Linda Windsor

I feel the heat!


6.  “Mother turned to Daddy and tried to smile, but it was little more than a ripple of sorrow passing over her lips.” Sweet Mercy by Ann Tatlock.

A fresh way to show a sad smile.

7.  “His smile was a slow lift of the lips.” There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones

Much better than: He smiled slowly.

Great word pictures like these evoke images and feelings in readers. Click to tweet.

How would you rewrite the following? The carousel took him back to another time.

10 Ways to Make Books Earn Their Shelf Space in Your Bookcase

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” —Marcus Tullius Cicero



In an earlier post, I talked about squeezing by-products from your creative work. This time it’s squeezing by-products from others’ creative work, i.e. their books.

I love my library. The many books I’ve read surrounding me as I write encourages me. For years, I felt guilty for not giving the books away. I’ve loaned out many, but…

Then my guilt vanished when I discovered so many ways to “reuse” them for me and for others.

Whether you’re an author, a blogger, or a workshop leader:


  • You can glean new uses for the books on your bookshelves. click to tweet

photoUses for the Books on Your Bookshelves

1. I write a lot of blog posts on writing. While making a point, I pull books from my shelves and find published examples to show what I mean.

2. I credit the author for the examples I use from books. This gives other authors exposure, especially as to how they cleverly performed a technique.

3. I have trouble sometimes in finding the answer to an uncommon grammar, style, or punctuation question in my reference books. So, I peruse books on my shelves. I often find how at least one publisher handled the issue. Using the search function on my e-books makes this easier

4. I give a quote in each of my blog posts. I usually search online for quotes. Often, though, I remember something an author said in one of the books on my shelves that’s the perfect quote.

5. I lead workshops on writing. I’ll take a load of books with me to use for examples. Once, I handed each participant a book and had each read aloud the opening paragraph. Then we voted on the best opening hook. This started discussion. It also gave other authors exposure.

6. I gathered 50 of my print and e-book inspirational romance novels recently and read the last two pages. I learned the popular elements inspirational romance authors leave their readers with at the end of their books. It gave me content for a blog post and a new ending idea I want to try.

7. I send my agent book proposals. In them, I list novels similar to mine. This helps the publisher know how marketable my book might be. I prefer to compare my book’s similarities and unique differences to books I’ve read and have on hand to refresh my memory.
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8. I’ve seen how loaning books to people has caused them to purchase the authors’ other books.

9. I visited a shut-in for years. Every week I brought her books from my shelves. They kept her going, and they gave us something fun to talk about.

10. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention we can press flowers or four-leaf clovers in our books.


How have you put your shelved books to work?